Posted by: ahmedashfaque | September 22, 2014

How to deal with difficult people on projects – part 1

Software projects are all about managing people. It is people who do all the work on software projects and it is where everything matters. Unfortunately on many projects there are people who are difficult to manage. So how to deal with such people?

On a project, I had one software tester who was extremely soft spoken and was very nice. If you talk to him, you will always get a very good impression about the guy. But at the same time, he was extremely smart to avoid any work. Any project work assigned to him would definitely land in the list of delayed tasks. At the same time, he had convincing answers for all those delays. Initially I accepted those explanations. Then as this happened all the time, I started investigating his work.

I found that he was smart on finding holes on specifications or lack of details about the task to be performed. His modus operandi is mentioned here.

He would accept the task once a task was assigned to him. He will immediately start working on finding the holes in the specifications. Once this is done then he will while away his time in talking to his friends over his mobile or going out of office and doing whatever he was interested in. He also knew pretty well that the project manager has too many people and problems to deal with and so will not bother to ask for task progress for some time. And this time can be used for seeking pleasure and whiling away time.

Now everybody knows that finding or providing all the specifications for a task is impossible. It is also a fact that taking task progress report from everyone on the project can not be done very frequently. So for example when i would ask for a task progress report from this guy after 2 days, he always used to have immediate excuses. This way several days of project work used to get lost.

After my investigation & analysis i called him in my office one day. This time i gave him a project task and asked him to find out every piece of information he needed to get this task completed within 2 hours. He accepted the task and left. He came back after 2 hours and gave me the list of holes in the specifications. I sat with him and discussed every hole one by one. Finally I told him that all specifications for any project task is impossible to furnish and the team members find out the alternatives or assumptions from their experience. For example, he was supposed to write test cases based on requirement document. The requirement document itself may not be available sometimes. But still test cases can be written based on some other documents like mock up documents, pilot presentation etc. All other project team members who have other project tasks may not find time to furnish each and every document. It is perfectly acceptable if they have provided some alternatives instead of the exact deliverable from their completed tasks.

from then onward, this guy also started delivering good on the project. He now knew that I know his methods and I will not tolerate any delays.

On most projects, this is a real problem. The project manager can not monitor and observe everything which is going on and some project team members take advantage of this fact. But a smart project manager should be able to find out what is going wrong and find out solutions.

There are many blind spots on a project and the project manager should be able to spot and find out those blind spots and work to remove them.




  1. […] this series from last post on dealing with difficult people on projects, here is another […]

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