Every PM should do this

The following is a quick-wins list that any PM can apply to support their dev team.

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During many years working in software teams I had the change of working as a PM. Not only that, I also saw other PMs do an amazing job. It took me some time but finally I figured out what they did right.

Great project managers really supported their team members.

How?

Great PMs fill in the weaknesses of developers. So they can play to their strengths.

Define the critical path

Developers are really good at solving problems right in front of them. They can see a problem and find a way to fix it.

But because they’re so focused on solving these problems, it’s hard for them to see the bigger picture. If they looked up from their work, they’d see a long list of other things they need to do.

What a PM can do:

  1. Figure out the critical path to get to the next milestone
  2. Make the trade-off in terms of what can be achieved in what time
  3. Nudge the developers if they deviate from the most important tasks

Shield communication

Developers work best when they can focus without interruptions. That’s true for everyone. Still, attention is more precious when solving deeply technical problems.

Yes, the maker’s vs manager’s schedule is real.

Great PMs only call developers into discussions that really need their input. They never just do this cover their… play it safe.

Try to understand technical details

How many PMs do you know who said “I would really like to learn some coding?”

And how many actually start?

Be one of them. It is a lot of fun even if you fail to produce something meaningful. And most importantly: Any developer will respect the effort.

Test the things we build

This is probably the biggest ROI on time a PM can bring to the table.

And it’s so easy to do: test the feature the developers put on staging. Test before the clients do.

The best PMs I have met have done this religiously. They have tested every single thing. Only if no errors were visible any more, they gave a feature to the clients.

Give us deadlines

Project Managers (PMs) need to step up and lay down the deadlines. Yes, deadline often come from the surrounding business. Yet, good PMs can split them up into smaller deadlines.

Developers will never set a deadline on their own. It’s not their job. Developers are there to create software that works. If there’s a time-component to it, it needs to get communicated by the PM.

So, instead of asking “When can you have that done”, better figure out a realistic plan with the whole team, then break it down into milestones, and align everyone to reach them.

Great PMs take the responsibility for deadlines and never delegate that task.

Conclusion

The listed points are obvious when reading them here. But, let’s be honest to ourselves: how many PMs do you know who are actually doing all five things?

As a PM, I now try to get better at each of these. I know it’s always a struggle to get everything done.

But in the end: supporting my devs is paramount. If they don’t get the help they need, I won’t get the optimal results I ask for.

3 min read
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Till Carlos

I'm Till, a senior developer who started a software company. I explain software concepts for people in leading roles.