The Process Obsessed

Project Manager so obsessed with process, they forget their job is to help the project be successful.

  • Can mutate into: “The Tyrant” Project Manager
  • Dangerous when coupled with: “The Dictator” Product Manager
  • Likelihood of fixing: High
  • Danger to project: Low

Problem

Any project manager, if sent to a training course on project management or finishes reading a book on project management, runs the risk of becoming The Process Obsessed. This can happen to the best of people, so it’s important to be patient with them.

There are two broad categories of processes obsessed project managers:

  1. Waterfall Obsessed
  2. Agile Obsessed

While their training course/book may have called them different things, you can put them into the proper bucket easily by applying the following test:

  • Waterfall Obsessed believe all problems can be solve through more documentation e.g. “From now on, we are going to write systems requirements document for every business requirements document.”
  • Agile Obsessed believe all problems can be solved through frequent short meetings e.g. “From now on, we’re going to have daily morning stand up meetings that last no more than 15 minutes.”

The goal of any project manager is the delivery of the project on time, and on budget. The process we use facilitates that end. When a project manager becomes obsessed with following a process, they can ignore this fact and instead fixate on the question of, “Are we following the process properly?” at the detriment of their other job responsibilities.

Solution

Whatever you do, do not attempt to take their process from them, or argue against the process. What you are dealing with is more of a religious zealot than a rational person, and they have convinced themselves of a truth: Their process with “fix” the project. If they perceive that the project is “broken”, and you try to say, “That won’t help us”, they will simply consider you a part of the reason why the project is broken.

The solution to a The Process Obsessed Project Manager is simple: agree to whatever they say you should do, but gently remind them that “It takes time to turn a big ship” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. What you’re trying to do is get them to agree to implement their new process through a series of small changes, rather than a big-bang change. This will allow them to learn through experience which techniques are effective and which are not. As they gain this experience, they will learn to adapt their process to the situation on the ground and will hopefully realize process is a means to an end, not a means unto itself.


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