CHOW 246 – Getting technical managers to understand how to do good project reviews

Ashish Agarwal, VP of Engineering Services for IOU India Pvt Ltd., the Indian Engineering services arm for IOU Inc. in the US, was doing his Department reviews with his Directors. This is his first monthly review meeting since joining the company about a month ago. Ashish has asked that each department head presents specific data that he requires on their projects as part of the review. He wants the concerned PMs also to be part of the review so he has an opportunity to meet and interact with them during the review. As the Process and QA head for the organization, he wants you also to be part of this review.

Dharmesh Murthy, the person in charge of the Payment Products and Solutions group was presenting data and metrics for projects from his area. While Ashish is new to the company, Dharmesh is a long-timer having worked in the company for more than 12 years after joining as a Lead Engineer in 2008 and growing through the ranks before becoming a department head two years ago. He is a techie to the core and does not do metrics-based project reviews with his PMs. In that sense, this review format is new to him.

During the review, Ashish has several questions for Dharmesh on various project data presented and it becomes clear that Dharmesh is grossly unprepared for such a review. Ashish finds that the concerned PMs have answers for some questions but Dharmesh himself has not done the needed analysis. Being a person who is somewhat blunt with his feedback normally, Ashish is about to do it, but holds back a bit primarily because this is the first department review that he is having with Dharmesh. Instead, you find that he prematurely closes the review and asks Dharmesh to meet him one on one later in the evening.

  1. How do you believe Ashish will approach his meeting with Dharmesh?
  2. If instead, Ashish had closed the review asking you as the Process and QA head to meet him first, what would you recommend that he does as a “sound” manager?

Suggested Solution

  1. Knowing Ashish’s personality, you would have expected him to be blunt with Dharmesh even during the review in front of Dharmesh’s reports. It is great that he held himself back. With his personality, you expect him to tell Dharmesh on his face what he thought of his preparation for the review was. He may ask questions on how Dharmesh does his regular project reviews – and if he figures out that Dharmesh does not do any justice to it, he will not waste his time with him – instead, he will have you as the Process and QA head to fix the process.
  2. If Ashish has asked you to meet him first, you would / should perhaps suggest the following:
    • Understand Dharmesh as an individual during the one on one, especially from the point of view of what he does to ensure his projects succeed – and appreciate what he does well. Ideally Ashish should have done this within his first 1 or 2 weeks in the company itself.
    • If Ashish senses there are gaps in the way Dharmesh goes about his role, probe and find out his suitability for the role and ensure he gets the required development support assuming he has the potential to succeed. The development support could be through sessions for him with you as the Process and QA head to help him understand how to use data driven analysis / decision making in projects. Also have the L&D head work with him for other development needs
    • Spend time with him to help him understand what he (Ashish) typically looks for in such reviews – may be over one or two one on one sessions. Since Dharmesh’s technical and people skills have given him some success already, Ashish’s role would be to ensure he gets the required Project / delivery management skills so he is even more successful in his role.


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