Section 3: Creating a Community
4. Knowing When to Swerve
In some cases, a project manager must make a difficult decision whether to confront a particular issue in the moment or to swerve around the issue and develop a contingency plan. Many times, these situations manifest when a human factor is unavoidable, unable to be mitigated through basic conflict resolution or basic capacity planning, and is temporary in nature or fundamentally unchangeable (i.e. temporary illness or absence, burnout, accommodation, or specific cultural valuation differences).
In many of these cases, there is not a true issue that needs to be solved, but rather one that needs to be carefully mitigated.
A team member (TM6) finds out that his partner needs to have surgery and he'll need to take around two weeks to help around at home. P1 has enough time to help plan to redistribute his tasks for while he is away and works with TM6 to determine his capacity and any schedule flexibility he'll need before his leave. Other than a few schedules appointments he would like to leave in the middle of the workday for, TM6 anticipates his capacity will not be compromised.
In the week leading up to the time off, however, TM6 becomes stressed trying to get his work completed on time, in addition to the personal stress he is feeling because of the situation. A best estimate is that he will be able to complete 75 percent of what was promised before his leave. P1 helps him plan for the extra 25 percent he can't finish, and organizes with other team members with greater capacity to pick up the extra work in order to help TM6 alleviate some of his work stress and focus on producing quality work.
After his two week absence, TM6 returns to work. His partner is still not fully recovered and doctor's anticipate they won't be fully recovered for another two weeks. In the meantime, he requests P1 flexibility in his schedule so that he can drop off his kids at school (though for pick up he has requested help from a family member so he will not need to leave early). In addition, he's exhausted and has been less articulate around other members of the team, and several team members have indicated that he's been unpleasant to be around.
Understanding that this change in behavior and schedule is temporary and does not reflect a permanent of fundamental attitude held by TM6, P1 allots him the flexibility, and quietly asks everyone who has indicated displeasure to keep in mind his current circumstance and actively work to empathize with his situation during the next few weeks. Additionally, in order to make sure she addresses both sides of the issue, she resolves to check in with TM6 more frequently for the next few weeks to assess both his capacity and to gently encourage more metered conversations with other members of the staff.