I recently wrote about good project managers &mdash and I mean it.

But there’s a particular project manager meeting that is usually a bad sign, a sign that you’re not dealing with a good project manager.

I’ll call it the “How You’re Going to Use JIRA” meeting. It doesn’t have to be JIRA, though JIRA is designed with this (awful) meeting in mind. It won’t be phrased quite that way, though that’s exactly what they mean.

To see why this meeting is bad, let’s look at a much better meeting — the Engineering “here’s an internal tool” meeting. Imagine a senior engineer sitting with (internal, usually) customers, explaining something they’ve just finished prototyping (or building) and showing off the various features. “Here’s the new XYZ workflow that you wanted” or “this is a new method of auditing ABC.”

In a good meeting of this type, you’ll alternate “yes, that’s what we wanted” with “that’s not quite right” with “uh, not sure what’s up with that” with “okay, we’ll try that, not sure if it’s what we want.” A good engineer will be taking notes to see which features get which reactions.

A good engineer will also understand that while you can explain a few things to the customer (“well, we actually intended…”), the customer is basically right. If your customer (paid or not, internal or not) says “no, we won’t use this”, you’re basically going to have to rethink the feature.

In other words, each feature is intended for the customer’s convenience, and if the customer disagrees about his/her own convenience, s/he is right and you, the designer of that feature, are wrong.

Now let’s talk about Project Manager Meetings.

When your project manager comes to you and explains the (invariably complex) new JIRA workflow, s/he is presenting you with how you’ll be doing things. And if you disagree, the (un-checked) feature designer is right and you (the customer, who already does this) is wrong.

It’s like a customer meeting with engineering, except the engineer is right and the customer is wrong.

Ever been through that literally? Like the engineering meeting above, but they’re allowed to tell you how to do it?

It’s marginally more pleasant for the engineers holding the whip, but it’s a really bad sign for the company.

It means that efficiency and in-the-trenches experience don’t matter, but the opinion of appointed people who don’t understand the work does matter.

It means that work is going to go badly from here on out.

Which, not coincidentally, is what it means when your project managers tell you how to do it for their convenience, too.

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