Posted by: kerrywills | December 2, 2016

Basketball and Expectations

Recently my son tried out for a travel basketball team in our town. He has played travel basketball for two years and our town is a very competitive sports town. Even though he is good at the sport, I had discussions with him on how competitive it would be and what would happen if he did not make the team. The team had twice as many kids try out as open spots and he did not wind up making it. I was surprised and disappointed but he handled it very well (better than me) which I think had to do with discussing expectations earlier.


This is also extremely important in our jobs as we have many stakeholders with different levels of expectations. We need to manage them in terms of cost, schedule, quality and risks so that as things arise they are not seen as surprises.  For example, when deploying a new product or technology we should set expectations that there will likely be fallout and that we should be prepared for that. This is much better than assuming no problems and then being surprised (and even worse, not prepared) when things do happen.

So the key is understanding expectations and managing them as appropriate. I should have done that myself and expected that a competitive sports town cares only about winning!

Posted by: kerrywills | November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a time to show appreciation and give thanks to others. Along that spirit I would like to give thanks to the readers of this blog, which is now seven years running. I have filled it with stories, sarcastic views on the workplace, humorous concepts and project management tidbits I have captured along the way. I hope that you have all been entertained by my shenanigans and possibly even learned something useful from my posts.


I truly believe that we, as project managers, work for our teams and support them as well as success is based on relationships – so we should all remember to show gratitude and thank others for their help and support. So, to that end, thank you all for your support and contributions over the years.



Posted by: kerrywills | November 18, 2016

That’s just the way they are (repost from 1/14/2011)

In my career I have worked with many people who could be labeled as ‘difficult’. These are people who possess some of the following traits..

  • verbally abusive
  • want things done their way and are very controlling
  • dismissive of others¬†or talks down to them
  • antagonistic in meetings
  • don’t respond to messages

These people make work hard for others around them. Sometimes, they even get promoted into management positions. Because they get the work done, it appears that senior management tolerates (and even rewards) their behavior. Oftentimes, senior management only sees the results and not the way in which it gets done and the impact on the team. This is unfortunate because it usually puts the onus on the team members or co-workers to put up with their behaviors because “that’s just the way they are” (I love that statement because then it condones the behaviors and suggests that everyone else has to deal with it)

To me this is a type of bullying at work which should not be tolerated. There are several methods which can be used but they need to be contemplated for the situation…

  • Deal with it – If you play to their egos then maybe they will ease up a little bit and not see you as threatening. This may work for a short time but doesn’t address the root problem
  • Confront them directly – This is risky because if you work for them directly then they have influence over your career and you don’t want to be ‘punished’ for bringing this up
  • Go to their supervisor – Also risky since controlling-type people see this as a form of backstabbing so you may want to only do this after confronting them first. Their manager may also see you poorly for going to them vs confronting the issue
  • Look for ways of providing anonymous feedback – Some companies provide 360 degree feedback which may be a good way to get your message across (so long as others provide the same feedback and it doesn’t get averaged in with other results)
  • Look for another job – There is a saying that “people join companies and leave managers.” Of course you could always wind up with a manager or team members who are worse

All of these options have downsides so I would be curious if others have advice for how to work with ‘difficult’ people. Or should we, in fact, just accept them because “that is just the way they are?”

Posted by: kerrywills | November 11, 2016


It is the end of the year which means, for many companies, planning their investment portfolios for the next year. This is when programs make proposals for work which get prioritized and then get allocated money their for their requested scope. Typically, the process of FUNDING has two possible outcomes..

Fun – Programs get the amount they asked for and can move forward

Ding – Programs are not approved for money or significantly less than they asked for



In either case programs have to plan. Either they need to do detailed planning for the amount they got approved and get ready to deliver against those commitments or they have to plan what to do with their unfunded or under-funded work. All I know is in anycase, I would not want the job of having to facilitate this process or handing out money as this does not seem FUN and all you do is get DINGED by everyone.

Posted by: kerrywills | November 4, 2016

Connecting Dots and Filling Holes

I was recently in a meeting with senior executives where one described Project Management as “filling out status reports and updating financials.” I hear these comments a lot and it really bothers me and perpetuates my belief that our profession is not valued or understood. First off, I acknowledge there are many PMs who just do that and make a bad name for all of us so I understand where this idea comes from. But I spend maybe 5% of my time on those things. The rest of it I spend on actually managing the work (since our titles are project MANAGERS not project REPORTERS).


Since I view myself as accountable for the successful delivery of the work (and not just reporting on it), I do whatever it takes to make the team successful which includes lot of things. I “connect dots” to make sure that teams are talking to each other, issues are resolved, and there is transparency in progress and risks. I also “fill holes” where they exist which includes taking over work that is not done, running down open issues, improving processes, making presentations to management and other gaps. In short, I do whatever it takes to make the team and project successful.

The only way that we can break this perception is by demonstrating the value. So, yes we have reports and financials to do, but we need to show that we take accountability, deliver on commitments, solve problems and bring transparency to progress and risks.


Older Posts »