Guiding Quote

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

Monday, September 3, 2012

Political Stratagems to be wary of: Guest to Host

Well summer is over and it’s time to get back to regular postings.

I want to detail some of the typical ploys that are used to subvert project managers the world over. Some of these you might find deplorable or even fanciful. But personal distaste or incredulity, are poor tools to evaluate other people’s actions. One of the more foolish decisions ever taken was the dismantling of the American intelligence service after the WW1 because “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail.” Well unfortunately not everyone is a gentleman or woman. Plus, knowing of the techniques doesn’t mean that you’ll use them, but forewarned is forearmed.

So we’ll start with a very common stratagem, which is known as “Guest for host”.
This refers to the situation where someone who is a visitor usurps the leader and moves from guest to host.

In history the most significant example occurred in Britain during the 5th century when two Germanic leaders Hengist and Horsa were asked by the then King of the Britons, Vortigern, to help him fight the Picts (ancient Scots). So Hengist and Horsa assembled a fighting force from the Northern Germanic tribes – Angles, Saxons, and the Jutes, You can see where this is leading. The Jutes have disappeared into the mists of history but the Angles and Saxons are the forerunners of the Anglo-Saxons and Angleland morphed into England.

To complete the story, Vortigern with the aid of his new allies defeated the Picts and as a reward paid them not in gold but, fatally for him and the Britons, in land, Principally in that part of England now known as Kent. From that base the Anglo Saxons expanded their power and ultimately forced the Britons to the fringes of the island, namely Wales and Cornwall. There were other stratagems displayed in this conquest but they are for another posting.

So how does occur in the business and project world? It happens when someone is attached to the project to act as an advisor or consultant to the project manager. The reasons may be to carry out an evaluation of performance for senior management, provide mentoring to the project manager, advising on new project methodology. Whatever the reason you now have a cuckoo in the nest. If you are not careful they will usurp your position and they’ll be in and you’ll be out!

This happens fairly frequently. I personally know of a consultant who was asked to evaluate the effectiveness of a Y2K project. Within three months he was running the effort and two years later he was generating $30M of business for his firm with that client.

How do you defend against this? Well it’s difficult. The simple answer is not to allow the parasite in. I did this on a project when one Monday morning a guy turned up from our American affiliate and said he been sent to observe how we Brits ran projects. Yeah right. I froze him out, didn’t invite him to meetings, and never shared any information. Within two weeks he was gone.

However had he been imposed by the client I’d have had a problem. The only way to handle this ‘guest’ is to provide enough information to avoid the charge of being obstructive, whilst retain your grip on the flow of information. Answer their questions and only the specifics of those questions. Resist the temptation to prove how smart you are by blurting out all you know. This gal might be after your job. 

With ‘guests’ you need to switch the Reaganesque saying from: ‘Trust, then Verify’, to ‘Verify, then Trust’.

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