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Mark Phillips dusted off his editing gloves and attacked the question referenced here in this meta discussion and made great progress on the constructiveness issue. We also reopened the question.

Here it is: How to Adapt to a New Team Culture?

Where PMSE Begins and Ends?

However, as both a moderator and a user of our site, I must admit I'm having trouble still defining the boundaries of what would be a project management question and what might be a better fit for another Stack Exchange site.

With these boundaries being unclear, it will be tough for us to appropriately handle material that, while constructive, may not belong on a site for Project Managers.

For instance, this question will definitely be on topic on Workplace SE. If our community decides this question isn't for us, it definitely has a home on the Stack Exchange network. However, some sites do overlap slightly and it's possible a question could be asked in more than one site. Just being on-topic somewhere else doesn't necessarily mean it's not on topic here.

Clarifying the Boundaries

In my opinion, this is one of those boundary questions that really does blur the lines. There must surely exist arguments for and against this being considered on-topic here, and analysing this question, now that it's a good (or arguably better) Stack Exchange question, can help us further define where PMSE begins and ends.

The boundaries may never be perfectly clear, but the more discussions we have on these questions, the clearer those boundaries will become.

What do you think? What makes this on-topic? What makes it off-topic? What elements of the question would need to be missing for you to vote it as off-topic?

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I see two underlying questions in the question and was trying to needle out the project management question, without deleting too much of the original questioners content.

  1. A clear personal growth question. This is not a fit for this site.

  2. A question on adapting to a new team, which strikes me as being related to a leadership challenge in project management.

What might be contributing to the blurriness of the line is that the question is asked from a team member's perspective and not from a manager's perspective???

I didn't want to change the perspective (e.g. what can I do to make to make a team member who came from a bad job experience more comfortable on my team).

Would it have been a better question if it would have been: Is there anything I can do to help my manager make me feel more comfortable?

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The question is about a team. We don't even know whether it is a project team, unless we assume every team is a project team. I would say, again, it is somewhere on scope's boundary.

Depending on how orthodox we want to be it can be either in or out of the scope. It's just team management / leadership thing.

Personally I'd vote for off-topic on the one we discuss, while I'd vote on-topic on that one. What is the difference between these two? I would say that the latter address project problem while the former not really. I know, this is vague, but this is how I feel.

  • I think that's a good criteria to use to help decide... If in doubt as to whether it's on topic, ask yourself whether it's a project problem or not. I'm thinking maybe we can compile a list of questions to ask about a post to help decide if it's on-topic/off-topic. Whether or not it's a project problem is a helpful one to add to that list. It's subjective, as in your version of a project problem may differ from someone else's version, but if we have something that helps people decide, that's helpful than just winging it without any guidance at all! – jmort253 Jul 6 '12 at 17:44
  • Based on the asker's comment to the answer they selected, it seems that it was not a project management specific question, at the core, but more of a general workplace question. Do you think the degree of subjectivity in the original question could be a useful decision making factor when considering if something is on topic? – Mark Phillips Jul 6 '12 at 20:03
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A clear personal growth question. This is not a fit for this site.

This statement makes me feel more strongly that this portion of the question is off-topic and think it would fit better on Productivity SE and of course Workplace SE.

A question on adapting to a new team, which strikes me as being related to a leadership challenge in project management.

This does strike me as an argument for the question being on-topic, and several people in the past have used this statement as an argument for keeping a question around.

Would it have been a better question if it would have been: Is there anything I can do to help my manager make me feel more comfortable?

I don't think it would make a difference. The current question is asked from the perspective of a team member about fitting in better. This strikes me as the area that might actually represent the deciding factor. Should it be required that a question be asked from a PM perspective? This would make it clearer to me where the boundary is, but we might risk losing some really great PM material.

What do you think about allowing project management questions asked from a pm perspective and also allowing questions asked from the perspective of someone working with a project manager on a project team?.

The latter portion still leaves room for these types of questions, yet still provides a much clearer boundary. As an example, a salesperson who isn't working on a project shouldn't ask questions here about personal growth, but a PM or team member could maybe get away with it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing so much for the question to be closed as I am just figuring out how far is too far, and I think questions asked from a team members perspective can add a great deal of value to the site, making it more multi-dimensional, and open more paths to learning for the project management practitioner.

In summary, this is what I conclude:

  • Questions asked by project managers are on-topic, if it's about PM.
  • Questions asked by project team members are on topic, if it's about PM.
  • Questions asked by anyone else not on a project team or project management role is off-topic, unless the question is actually about project management. General concepts are only on topic if asked from the above two perspectives.
  • As a thought exercise: Would a non-math question asked by someone who is not a mathematician (neither professional nor hobbyist) be allowed on math.se? Would it make a difference if it were from the perspective of someone working with a mathematician? Perhaps the question under discussion does cross the line and should be closed. Though let's give it a few days for other people to chime in. – Mark Phillips Jul 6 '12 at 1:59
  • Definitely not. The math question would need to be about math. :) I realize now I worded the last part of bullet point #3 illogically. If we throw out the perspective idea altogether, we still have "adapting to a project team" as something that makes it on-topic. This makes it clearer. If Code Junkie was asking how to adapt to a sales team, it would clearly be off topic in my mind ;) Agreed on leaving open for now :) Thanks for helping to clear this up. – jmort253 Jul 6 '12 at 2:04
  • Mark, if you have time to look at another boundary question, I think this one could use another perspective as well: meta.pm.stackexchange.com/a/370/34. This seems to be a quarrel between two developers. I guess if we thought of it as "two developers... on a project team" the same case could be made for it being on-topic ;) – jmort253 Jul 6 '12 at 2:08

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