Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Clients and Customer Types - My Way!

Every project has a client or a customer. It’s been carried out to meet someone’s need. It can be a commercial customer or another department in the same organization. Each client is different but a lot fall into dysfunctional groupings.

The first grouping I classify as the My Way mind set.

Most project teams are experienced at what they do; typically they’ve done similar work many times before. So, they have a proven method and working practices. Typically the client has not done this stuff before or, if they have, not often. So, they have no proven methods etc.

Most clients recognize this and accept that you are the experts and follow your leadership. However, there is always a group of people, usually in the bigger corporations, who don’t just think they know better, they are convinced that they know better. They are: the anointed, the chosen, the select, born to rule and guide. So throw away your proven project methods and now start to do it our way. The unproven way!

There’s an old military saying that “plans don’t survive the first contact with the enemy”, well there’s an equivalent saying in project management, to the effect that “implementation plans don’t survive the first contact with the client”. On Day One of your project your client will want to change the approach, the forms, the time recording system and on it will go. How you handle this will determine how badly you will fail. For even with your methods you know that failure is an option, change the methods and the risk of failure increases.

So, how to manage this situation? Trust me no one wants a major row on day one of the project, no one. The first criteria and the most important, is that someone in your organization needs to grow a set of testicles, figuratively speaking for our female readers. You have to show early on that you are not going to be shoved around by the client. The customer is not always right. Being a customer does not endow people with the gift of infallibility. Wisdom is not doled out with every purchase order that is issued.

Secondly you need to look at what they are asking for and select those issues that cost you nothing but will give them a warm and fuzzy feeling. So, changing a reporting form to meet their internal needs is OK. You can use it during your project review meetings. Allowing them to dictate the sequence in which you implement or build you solution is not.

I once worked for a software company and when we where installing a solution the customer wanted the system implemented in a non-logical manner. We tried educating him and his staff, for it was a he, it’s nearly always an he, to no avail. Then our management, salesmen to a man, caved in. Their testicles miraculously shrank over night. Needless to say two months later, the penny drops with the client, but we have lost time and the client and salesmen have forgotten why it happened. It’s a sad fact of life but the My Way people have short memories. They will never acknowledge that their meddling caused problems.

So, to repeat, give them some simple cosmetic changes to allow them a trophy or two, but refuse to change your method. You might think that this is a drastic step, but the alternative is sure failure. Once the termites get into your method and start chewing, you’re going down and your project will be a failure.

No comments:

Post a Comment