The Lab Rat is the team member that scurries around from location to location looking for morsels of cheese. Sorry, information. You’ll find them hanging out at the desks of their pals, next to the coffee machine, or out at the smoking area, even when they don’t smoke.
They’re not really that keen in doing any work, they are more interested in finding out who’s been doing what, with whom and when. They’ll be looking to spend their days keeping themselves busy chasing down tasty morsels of gossip instead of getting your project delivered.
Obviously, on the surfact this really isn’t a great thing for you, as you care passionately about getting your project delivered. But all is not lost if you happen to have a Lab Rat on your team, you just need to know how to manage them.
First of all you need to manage their workload to a level that you are getting an acceptable amount of work out of them; after all you’re paying for them and if they’re not delivering, you’ll not be having any of that.
They’re your eyes and ears on the street.
Then you need to take advantage of their personal network. Use them to keep you appraised of what’s happening on other projects, with other managers and keep yourself ahead of the competition when it comes to soon-to-be-available resources, potential budget-cuts, political in-fighting, etc. All the things that you may be able to use to your advantage on delivering your project.
While you may find some interesting techniques in the A-Z that will help you navigate through the stormy waters of Software Delivery, be careful not to flounder on the rocks of the Island of Lame Excuses.
Always remember, first and foremost that you, as the Project Manager, are wholly responsible for the delivery of the project. It’s up to you to mobilise the resources, plan accordingly and steer your project carefully to the Land of Success.
Never, ever resort to, “A big boy did it and ran away”, or somesuch nonsense. Poeple will not react kindly to that kind of excuse and will almost certainly think less of you and your delivery ability.
If you have made a mistake, judgement of error, or otherwise hit upon a problem, then stand up and admit it. Take your kicking and move on; consider it an educational exercise, and make sure you put the necessary things in place to afoid falling over that particular problem in the future.
One thing though: Before you admit the problem and take your kicking, best to have the solution to the problem already implemented or, at least, up your sleeve. Otherwise you’ll look a real idiot.
Recognisable from the fact they move quietly from meeting to meeting, with their metaphorical tail between their legs, the Lost Dog generally has a doleful expression on their face.
You’ll spot them as the person who always seems to be in all the meetings you go to, but rarely contributes much. Very much the antithesis of the Echo, they will sit quietly, desparately trying to keep up what’s being discussed, perhaps nodding occasionally and generally only speaking when directly invited to and then saying a little as they can get away with to avoid appearing scoobless.
Much of this is due to the fact that they feel overwhelmed by the topics being discussed. You will find many Lost Dogs in large organisations, particularly where the technology has moved on and they haven’t. They’re always busy, mainly because of the number of meetings they need to go to, but also because they’re following somone around.