I recently wrote about good project managers — 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
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
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
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
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.