I work in IT and have been considering a change of careers predominantly due to several issues I've faced over the years. After lots of reflection, I think some of the issues arise from having responsibility with no authority. I think this has lead to my burnout. Maybe I am in part to blame, for my current state, for not putting up strong enough boundaries. I'm interested to know what strategies you as project managers, have developed to combat issues such as:
- Being responsible for the outcome of a project, but having no authority to set deadlines, defined/reduce scope, allocate resources/people, provide/receive training etc. What strategies do you use to push back? How long did you let it go on for before you pushed back? What, in your opinion, is a reasonable amount of leeway to give in these situations? Is this a common problem in your experience?
- Working on teams that spend lots of time bikeshedding, i.e. they want to discuss the most trivial and unimportant details while Rome burns. How do you stop this? Setting meeting agenda didn't work. I found that people/managers didn't want to make the tough decisions. For example, manages/leads not wanting to agree upon basic definitions that are fundamental to the work or ignoring fundamental technological limits associated with a project, but happy to spend hours discussing chart line colours.
- How do you deal with scope creep and people moving the goalposts? In particular, how do you deal with people that move the goalposts (scope creep) but don't acknowledge that there is an inevitable cost to doing so? Or people who are reluctant to make decisions, make them very late into the project, and then backtrack, but still expect the original targets to be met? How common is it for middle management to do this? What strategies can be employed to avoid this? Regular feedback/updates didn't work. What do you do to protect yourself? Does one simply have to keep a paper trail and stick to their guns? I found that even presenting a paper trail was inefficient at clearing up the dispute: told that regardless of what had been said (in writing no less) that this fundamental change was a must, as were the original targets. Is this the point you walk away from a job? I want to make sure that I'm not in this situation again.
- How do you deal with a manger that won't actually manage? Who withholds key information? What up-managing strategists have you as PM used in the past?
- When do you know to walk away from either a project or manager or company, do you have a list of red flags in your mind. I guess what I'm asking here is what issues (discussed above or otherwise) are in your opinion are small enough that, one can control the outcome, and what issues are so big that you should start looking for another job. Are the above issues absolute no goes? Or are these normal issues that can be fixed through up-managing, and if so what strategies do I employ?
- Finally, what do you guys do to de-stress at the end of the day?
UPDATE: Thanks for the reply so far.
More detail: I should say that I'm working as a programmer, not a project manager. Being an expert in a particular field, I was asked to come up with a technical solution to a problem. To give you an example, this is taken verbatim from https://www.elg.net/2015/04/accountability-authority-drive-employees-crazy/ [accessed on the 23rd of August 2020], but is very close to that which I experienced:
"For example, you put one bright, articulate person in charge of monitoring some particular process: say, power consumption at various military installations. After awhile, she becomes the expert on power consumption at these facilities. At that point, then you say, “Hey, you’re the expert on this, how about if you take the lead on decreasing power across all these facilities?” Now, she’s not in command of any of these installations. She has no authority over anyone in any of these places, but “Sure,” she says. “I’ll be happy to take the lead.” And so she begins her march down the nagging path to nuttiness.
Too often we put faith in the cure called “communication,” or the cure called “leadership.” Because we know that these qualities are necessary, we believe them to be sufficient. They are sufficient only some of the time. The problem is the failure to distinguish what it takes to obtain occasional cooperation from others within the organization, and the conditions needed to do it all the time. This is the difference between borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor and shopping in his pantry. It’s the difference between using your relationships and using them up."
In this example, what would you advise she did differently? What strategies should be employed?