The Hoverer

A Project Manager who believes that constantly asking for status keeps people focused on completing their tasks.

Problem

When project managers sit at their desks, away from the project members doing work, it is easy for them to feel as if they have nothing to do. This drives them to do anything necessary to feel useful and relevant. For The Hoverer Project Manager, the most obvious way for them to appear productive is to verify this work is actually being done by the team. This is frequently accomplished through the following methods:

  • Sending emails to ask for project status.
  • Scheduling meetings to discuss status.
  • Requiring that timesheets be filled out with detailed breakdowns.
  • Requiring that loosely defined objectives be broken down into fine-grained tasks.
  • Initiating spontaneous in-person meetings in order to ask team members for their status.

The Hoverer is commonly known by another name: a micro-manager. Their project management techniques are interpreted by project team members as any or all of the following:

  • Nagging
  • Pestering
  • Harassing
  • Distracting
  • Disrupting
  • Annoying

It is common that project members will develop a deep resentment for The Hoverer Project Manager, as their perception is:

  • The Project Manager does not trust them to manage their own time.
  • The Project Manager does not believe their estimates.
  • The Project Manager does not understand the necessity of being left alone to solve problems.
  • The Project Manager has no value other than to ask for and report on status.

This perception gives rise to a them-versus-us situation between the project manager and the project team members, stifling useful communication that the project manager could otherwise use to correct real problems on the project. Instead of engaging with “the Hoverer” in effort to foster cooperation and collaboration, the project team members avoid any additional contact with the project manager for fear of being (once again) asked for status.

Solution

The Hoverer Project Manager personality is such a common occurrence that it is considered to be the main job responsibility of project managers. Assuming the inevitable, the only question in most team members’ minds is to what degree they will be pestered for status, often forming an internal threshold for which they feel they will be asked for status too frequently. Since most project team members will have learned to adapt to being constantly harassed for status, The Hoverer does not present a high risk to the project, but it will tend to crowd-out useful conversation that could otherwise be had.

The Hoverer emerges as a result of poor visibility with regards to a team’s productivity. Therefore, the solution to is to collocate this Project Manager with the entire project team. If not collocated with the team, The Hoverer is overcome with the urge to directly ask the team members for status. When they are collocated, project managers will absorb current project status simply by overhearing conversation that organically occurs within the team. In this mode of operation, project managers are truly the most effective, as they will only feel compelled to intervene if productivity is truly being hampered.


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