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How to transition into role of project manager at the request of the Client?

I know this post is very long but the situation is complicated and I am in desperate need of advice.  Thank you all, in advance, for your time and consideration. **Please note**  I have inserted (Company-X) in lieu of the company's name to maintain anonymity.   
 I was brought in by the PM to lead a Software Configuration Management and SCMDB effort as well as help with the development of a "Center of Excellence" for configuration and deployment.  The prime contract is held by (Company-X), and the PM is an (Company-X) employee.  The project was kicked off last August. There were two previous configuration management consultants brought in and subsequently released. I have been informed by a member of the client's staff that the "general consensus is that neither of the previous consultants in my position seemed to know what they were doing."
When I arrived on site (4 Jan), the PM handed me the project documentation and whispered that he/she could use my help in getting all of this project documentation together and submitted to the Project Sponsor. This Project Sponsor is an AVP who is quite sharp. I agreed to review the information and after doing so informed the PM that it appeared we had several weeks of PMBOK Planning Phase documents to develop (Project Plan Document, WBS, Work Package Breakdown, Project Network Diagram, and Project Schedule). We are weeks away from several deliverables, the requirements have only been informally documented, and the milestones and sign off have not been properly vetted out. The AVP was under the impression that this was all being accomplished by the PM. The PM was scheduled long ago for vacation and left last week.  He/she had promised to provide the updated Work Plan to the AVP by the previous Friday but then took off early Thursday afternoon without delivering. This required him/her to work remotely most of Monday to provide the document to the AVP.  I helped review it and provided my input. He/she is scheduled to return to the office this coming Monday (2/6). I believe I should mention that there are approximately 3 months of deliverables that have already been missed and the next set of deliverables are due by 2/29.  
This last week, I was asked by the Account Manager to help as I was familiar with what needed to be done.  I ended up devoting 100% of my time to gathering the needed information, meeting with the Director, and the AVP (project sponsor) and many others. I was instructed NOT to say anything (as mentioned above), and that I should try to simply give them what they needed.  Gathering the needed Work Package information was a daunting task. The team members involved do not seem to understand what is required of them with regards to the project. After a week of coaxing I met with the client on Friday to provide a status. After presenting my findings everyone agreed that we (Company-X) needed to go back and re-assess what we could realistically deliver by a specified date and how that would be of value to the client.
I received a call from the Account Manager asking me if I would be willing to accept the role of PM.  This, according to him, is what he felt was the best thing to do.  He also mentioned that the client project sponsor, the AVP, said that this is what she wanted.  She felt that the current PM had not delivered as promised and did not provide proper accounting. The Account Manager said that several others had also voiced their desire to have me run the project.  I feel that (Company-X) is under pressure from the client to make this happen or risk losing the multi-million dollar contract and any possibility of future revenue streams from this large client.  BTW, this is their first contract with this client and of course must show success in order to be considered for other initiatives.
1. The pre-existing project team from (Company-X) does not seem to understand their part in the project.  (I say that because I asked them to provide me with their list of tasks based on specific deliverables that they had responsibility for and I received unintelligible answers.  In one case the items listed included his/her role (on the core team) and a responsibility (involved in decision making process in various meetings); this parenthetical info is exactly what was listed.  
3. One or two of the team members have rather difficult personality types, and act as if they don't understand what I am asking them to provide. This may be attributed to cultural differences affecting communication.
4. To get this project back on track I firmly believe that it is necessary to take a step back and perform the tasks that should have occurred months ago in the initial planning stages.
5. I feel that I should ask for some sort of contract re-negotiation to the billable rate because I am now directly responsible for project success. Additionally the success or failure of this project will most likely determine whether (Company-X) will be able to develop further business within the client.
Any advice will be greatly appreciated!  Thank you!
asked 9 years ago by anonymous edited 9 years ago by MaplePM

1 Answer

That's a very interesting situation, and I wish I responded earlier in the day.

First things first, go ahead, accept the position, the current PM is toast anyway, and he will probably be fired, there's nothing you can do about it. He just didn't do his job.

Your great advantages is that management trusts you, and you can use that trust to your advantage, especially when dealing with the project team. You need to bring up the current situation of your project team so that your project sponsor is aware of the issue (she may give you some advices or she may take some prompt action). In any case, I'm sure that your sponsor will give you a "Carte Blanche" when dealing with your team members.

Your next step is to deal with the project team, and this is the hardest part. My guess is that they're not taking you seriously as a project manager. Try to be professional with them as much as possible, and set aside your feelings. Now, you need to re-do the whole thing, re-estimate the tasks after consulting with your team members, and then re-assign the tasks to your team members. In other words, you will need to create project out of the remainder of the project. Once you re-start the execution phase, you will need to micro-manage these team members, and continually assess their work (and the quality of their work), especially in the first few weeks. Forget about cultural differences, that's not the problem, the problem is that you have a bunch of slackers who don't want to do any work and would like to sound stupid rather than doing actual work.

If, after the first week (a week is more than enough, no need to waste more time on them, there are plenty of people in need for a job out there), you see that some team members are still giving you hard time, then fire them/take them off the project immediately and hire others in their place. (you will not miss them trust me, the project has reached this point because of these slackers, as well as the project manager) The new project is still in its beginning and there won't be any overhead when switching programmers. I personally suggest you start looking for new programmers now, as I believe that attitude is non-changeable.

If you think that you should ask for contract re-negotiation, then this is what you must do. The client will not like it but he will respect you even more for that. Of course, you should advise your project sponsor before doing that, and don't let her pressure you into accepting the current contract.
answered 9 years ago by MaplePM (46,940 points)

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