First off, I should mention I am a new PM, transitioned from a business role.
Basically since eight months I have been a PM for a product at my company. We had a bunch of PMs leave at once and they offered me the position out of necessity, rather than me applying. I enjoy the role and am really trying hard to learn as much as possible. I basically went in feet first solo on a product for several months while trying to learn the ropes until they could “get me help”. I established a routine with the team, am well liked, and my last review i was “exceeding expectations”.
3 months ago help came in the form of a new Senior PM joining the team with 10+years of industry experience. I now report to this person and we are struggling with balance of duties. He does not attend any of our ceremonies and often schedules and then cancels sync meetings we are meant to use to work together. He does not know the product and refuses to take any advice I give.
Now where things blew up. I worked with our developers to make a decision on a solution for a deliverable we have next year. We had multiple teams involved and came out of the discussion with a clear path forward. When I informed my boss, he blew up at me. He said I am working in a silo and deliberately cutting him out. I do not know how to involve him if he constantly cancels sync meetings and does not show up to discussions where these decisions are made.
For people in a similar situation, do you send daily update emails to your superior PM? How can I support him and my product without seeming like I am cutting him out?
Disclaimer: I haven’t been in a situation like this myself. so what I’m going to say is kind of my thinking of how I would react if I were in your shoes.
I would definitely talk to that person in a 1:1 setting. try to understand where that person is coming from. raise the points that you’ve observed and explain how you interpret this behavior. Let the other person answer - maybe we’re missing something here. if that person continuous to be defensive or even tries to talk her way out of this situation I would escalate to your supervisor. sometimes some people just don’t go along very well and I think it is okay to be honest about this. maybe the solution is to divide your work into smaller work streams so each of you can work on their own work packages w/o the need to align with each other.
I’m sorry you’re in this position. Seems like this is a management issue rather than specifically about multiple PMs in one product.
I would love to know whether your manager actually has people management experience or not. For purposes of helping you in a worst-case scenario let’s assume not.
So in your situation I would highly advise to have a 1:1 conversation with your manager on his expectations of you. I would recommend the OKR framework here, what objectives do you have and what are the key results you’re going to chase to accomplish them, they he will measure.
This should be an eye opening session in which then once your goals are established, then you can move into what kind of support and involvement does he expect to give you.
Because in your case, I’m going to guess this part is where it gets tricky. PMs with little to no people management experience (ie me, a number of years ago) can have a hard time understanding that rather paradoxically they are no longer the product decision makers. It’s now their team. See, it’s your job, not his (anymore) to define the user story to go solve first in the next sprint. But… ultimately he’s responsible for your performance as he is your manager isn’t he? So that’s why I recommend asking him the types of things he expects to have to be run by him first. Don’t complain or argue when he starts asking to do your job or micromanaging your outputs. Just listen and write it down. Clarity is paramount here. Does he want to be in the sprint planning sessions where sprint goal is ratified? Does he want to be invited to customer feedback or usage analysis sessions? Does he want to ideate solutions with you and engineering? Does he want to provide input to projects they have a large architectural footprint? Does he want to be or present in the weekly updates for highly visible feature X?
Write it down and abide. And do this for at least one month. Then you and him can sit down and do a retro so you both decide where he no longer is needed. And “in return” also ask for coaching, on how to approach things, so he still feels he is giving input and contributing to your success. And likely you want/need the advice anyways!… my hope is he will see the light and change his tune and let you spread your wings. Best of luck!
Sounds a bit like a direct report issue.
Potentially from his perspective, by not bringing him into the discussion you deliberately excluded him when in reality you just never felt there was a chance.
Even if he cancelled all of your meetings, a slack message or email could’ve kept him in the loop and I would definitely feel frustrated if I just joined a team and my direct reports didn’t say anything about a major product decision.
That said, I definitely agree that you need to have a 1-1 with him first and let him explain his perspective and expectations as your manager.
Don’t let him off the hook and make sure you have in writing exactly what he wants.
Doesn’t need to be a contract or anything but an email or slack message that can be referenced if there’s issues in the future will go along way to keep the peace.
@LawrenceMartin, I disagree. If this person owns this space they need to make themselves available. In no way does it sound like OP was omitting them; to me OP is moving the product forward. The VP needs to get in or let the team work toward the goal
@RohitKumar, Totally agreed, I don’t think this Senior PM is doing his job right if OP is feeling this way especially if OP is driving the product forward successfully.
Just gave my two cents on how to hopefully avoid any workplace drama and avoid issues with this guy in the future.
In my limited experience, PMs can be very territorial/gatekeeper-ish. I think in instances like this it will always be difficult because you have better working knowledge of the organization/product potentially while your manager is still new. I’d suggest inviting them to all agile ceremonies so they’re in the loop on your process. This would include any Grooming/Pre-Grooming you might do so that they feel included as to how/why you’re making the decisions you are. In addition, any hard metrics around product features/improvements should be ironed out and very digestible for not only your manager but for other business stakeholders in a short 1 pager. That way going forward when someone asks why your roadmap is prioritized as such you can point to the corresponding Business Justifications aka link them the doc(s).
@Carlos, He is invited to all of those and never is able to make it. We are all virtual so that can make it difficult to know where he is, but i assume he is meeting with other stakeholders.
@Natalie, Have you reiterated his standing invitation to these ceremonies? You need to have a CTJ talk with him to figure out his expectations as others here have said.
Sorry you’re going through this. Sounds like incompetence on some level on your boss’ part.
I had a similar but ultimately slightly different situation with a previous boss. He was highly competent, but stretched far too thin. This was good and bad; he was very knowledgeable and helpful when present, but wasn’t often able to be present. The fact that he wasn’t able to be present was a double edged sword, because on the one hand, he had a very specific way of doing things and him not being there meant it was hard to know how he would approach a situation, but it also meant we got more autonomy, which I appreciated.
I did not do a daily email. However, if a significant decision was being made, I made sure it was communicated to him via email and/or Slack. This is a bit of an art, because deciphering what was considered significant and what wasn’t was sometimes difficult, but in the end, he felt like I communicated the important things and I respected his guidance. Eventually, we developed a trust.
Meet with the Sr. PM in 1:1’s. Regularly share roadmap, links to backlog, noting changes. Document your invitations and share decisions made.
Be chatty with your updates. It’s a CYA and at the same time might bring him around.
Been here done that. Just get better at your executive updates. Whenever you make decisions you should be able to give an elevator pitch for the change.
How often do you usually speak together? I’m hoping the answer is like at least a 10-15 min daily.
We have a standing 30 minute daily sync up, but we usually only get that once or twice a week because he is more likely to not show up (no notice). Otherwise he is very difficult to get in touch with, often not responding to IMs until the next day… I think with this advice plus all the other comments, I will start sending email updates for anything semi major and hope he gets them.
Yeah send the updates and keep a daily log. It’s lame on his part to be unreachable, but really managing up for better or worse is part of product. When you make decisions keep him posted. His poor responses will catch up with him at some point. Be ready to fill the role.
TBH, deciding something that’s a 12+m deliverable and not including the manager is pretty silod. Just put on your project manager hat for a second, and think about where your manager would fall in a RACI chart: for something as a major as 12 months of scope, you should probably have consulted or gotten his sign off at a minimum