This group could be considered by some to be a sub set of the No Surprises managers. They aren’t! They are a separate and dangerous group in their own right. They are dangerous because they refuse to face reality until it brings the world crashing down around their ears. They are the Marie Antoinette’s and the Russian Romanovs of the management world. They want to maintain their illusions for as long as possible. Pricking this group’s bubble can be very hard.
I once witnessed the senior IT executive of a client insist that we adhere to a software implementation schedule even though his senior staff and the business unit management had told him that it was not feasible. He point blank refused to accept the reality of the situation!
How did we convince him otherwise? We went around him, using the business unit managers to warn their superiors of the dire consequences of his actions. We used corporate politics to deflate his bubble. Politics is seen has a dirty word by many project managers. But to paraphrase Clausewitz; “project management is nothing but the continuation of politics by other means”. You may think that is a provocative statement, but trust me it holds true. All project management is politics. If you don’t come to realize that then you’ll have short and painful career as a project manager.
Another example was the CIO of a large perfume company who, in the face of a run away budget, just placed the supplier invoices in his desk draw. Only when the supplier pressed for payment would he pass them on for payment. That way he hoped to buy time. He didn’t, he was eventually found out by his bosses and fired.
The key point about managing bad news bears is to make sure you are not closely allied to them, whether they are bosses or clients. Make sure you build alliances with the other key players in the organization. Do a stakeholder analysis and make sure you are on good terms with all of them. Bad news types always get their comeuppance; just make sure they don’t take you down with them.
If you are Machiavellian then working for a Bad news Bear can work out to your advantage. If you know he’s going to fail then by showing competency and transparency to other stakeholders you can position yourself to be his replacement. Don’t show disloyalty, nobody likes a snake in the grass, but facts are facts. So tell them the facts and let the cards fall where they may.