What does project management at Google look like? One thing for sure, different teams use different approaches and various tools. However, all managers use data-driven “Google Manager Behaviors.“
In 2002 Google got rid of all managers. They thought that engineers would work better if no one controls them. It turned out not very well for Google.
But it’s Google!
They could not just accept the fact. So, they set upon a quest to identify what constitutes a perfect manager.
(I’ll share the resource with all Google’s best practices a bit later.)
Now I would like to share four techniques that will make you a better manager.
I’ve been using them for years. Now that I know managers at Google use them as well – that’s what I want to recommend to you as well.
Google Manager Behaviours
Let’s start with eight crucial behaviors:
Interesting to note:
While Google’s a technical giant, they rated technical skills as the least important aspect for a manager. Though, I should admit that their vision of a manager is a bit different from the rest of the world.
Project Management at Google That You Can Use
The first seven behaviors is common sense, isn’t it?
No, not for me.
I can tell that most of the behaviors are reversed in priority in most organizations.
Nevertheless, you can change it on your project.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Provide Career Development Assistance
I found it out several years ago on my own. Now, I got back up from Google managers.
If you want to win a person’s disposition, help him or her to build a career.
Here’s how it works:
Step #1: Help to identify achievable goals
It’s quite straightforward. You need to ask a person what he or she wants to get from work.
If you hear “more money” – that’s OK.
At some point, it’s the most important aspect. However, the motivational power of money diminishes with each subsequent achievement.
So, I suggest you accept any goal that a person deems valuable at the moment.
But there’s a catch:
The goals do change rapidly.
You can rely on one goal for 6 to 12 months max. AND it only works if you can review the objectives every 3–4 months.
Also, at some point in career development, you’ll need to direct a person to a higher purpose.
It should be still valuable and tangible. It’ll be perfect if this objective is aligned with the need of a company.
Step #2: Align the goal with opportunities
Next. You heard the person’s desires and goals.
Is it something that one can achieve in the current organization?
For example, your team leader wants to become a project manager. But prerequisites for a PM are high. Will you be able to arrange such a career move? Will your managers approve it?
So, the point is to ensure that you’ll be able to fill in the expectations. It’s better to align the goals early on.
What if the person will be unhappy to know there’s no career opportunity she wishes?
This person will leave anyway sooner or later. But you have a chance to manage the expectations.
I believe you should let people go if you can’t fulfill their self-esteem needs.
Step #3: Develop a measurable action plan
Next, you need to develop a transparent development plan.
- What a person should learn or master.
- How will you track and evaluate progress?
- What are the deadlines?
- What are the retreat options?
2. Balance YOUR Care and Candor
A great project manager knows equally well the personal and professional aspects of each team member.
You should not expect super performance from a person with troubles at home or problems with health.
A person in love will be distracted more than ever.
It’s common sense. You can’t ignore these.
So, the key here is to balance three main elements:
It’s your ability to feel the emotional state of another person, understand the circumstances. However, too much empathy and you will burn out.
It’s your ability and desire to assist someone emotionally when needed. Compassion builds strong relationships. But too much of it – critics and hard talks become painful.
And the final component is curiosity. Real one. You can’t fake it much. People feel it.
You need to practice all three to master the skill of praising, constructive criticism, and care.
3. Build Influence With Small Things
When we think about motivation, we tend to go LARGE.
We develop a comprehensive plan that will work for years and on autopilot. Performance reviews, team building parties, development plans, and so on.
But quite often it turns out that the best motivate is a desk at the window. Or better coffee beans in the kitchen. Or a green plant at the table.
Small things sum up. They show continuous attention and care.
So, here’s what I suggest.
During your next one on one meeting with a team member, you need to ask one question:
What ONE thing that will make you happier?
It should be something specific, measurable, and tangible.
If it’s at all possible – commit to delivering it to the person.
Once you delivered it, ask again.
I’m quite sure that there’ll be a lot of overlapping requests from different people. And it won’t be a long list.
As a side effect, you’ll also learn whether people know what they want. Whether they understand what makes them unhappy or distracts. Once you fix that, you’ll remove a negative hygiene factor.
But the one thing approach doesn’t end here.
I use it in many ways.
- Select a learning topic for a development plan.
- Set the focus for the day for yourself or the team.
- Select the most critical deliverable.
It’s a good way to avoid multitasking and ambiguity of priorities.
4. Join or Create a Project Manager Community
As a project manager, you help others.
However, you shouldn’t forget about yourself as well.
In any environment work towards creating a project management community.
Create or join a group of likeminded PMs to share experience, knowledge, and findings. You also need to talk to people who understand your problems and challenges.
Personally, I tried three different approaches:
1. Created a learning class
On a weekly or biweekly basis, one of the project managers prepares a lecture, seminar or a masterclass.
Usually, it’s aimed to improve the realities of the current environment. However, topics are never limited.
This way people share their experience, case studies, lessons learned, and concerns. This process helps to systemize knowledge and gain validation of the used approaches. And they get feedback from peers.
2. Organized weekly lunches with PMs
Once a week all PMs or a group go to lunch together.
It’s a non-formal way to share the latest news and feeling about the events in the company.
It’s a good way to stay in touch with the current mood of your colleagues and trending news.
Moreover, it’s just fun.
3. Participated in PM Conferences
If you don’t have an opportunity to organize managers inside your company you can go to different PM events.
That way you are not dependant on the others and can network with external experts.
And you don’t have to spend a fortune to get on the top events in the world. Local PMI chapters, occasional speakers, and professional groups work just as well.
What Does Google Use for Project Management
People often ask this question.
At Google, they use various project management tools. Smartsheets, Google Sheets, Trello, etc.
They work in small teams. So there’s no need for a robust life cycle project management software like MS Project. Each team can select the tool it likes.
But it’s not the tool that makes these teams efficient…
Where can you find more?
So, if you want to learn more about project management at Google, you can go to the re: Work site.
I send the last three days consuming what they have there.
There’s one crucial takeaway from that learning:
You already know the most effective tools and techniques. You just need the persistence to implement them and reap the benefits.
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