Guiding Quote

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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Project Managers And Client Types: The Shape Shifter

In ancient stories and fables there’s always a character that appears as one thing at the start of the story, usually an apparent steadfast friend, but who changes when tested. Some clients certainly fall into this category.

The client who wants to be so friendly: Hail fellow well met, can’t do enough for you. We’ve all meet them, and some of us have been shafted by them. They are your friend, until there’s a problem, then all of a sudden they are siding with their employer. Or the client manager who’s a great supporter of the project until you hit rough water and then they are the project’s most vocal detractor: these are shape shifters.

Project managers should never get closer to the client than they are to their own team. Remember you are in a contractual relationship with the client. You may appear to be working for him in many ways, but your not, the man who signs your paycheck always as first call on your loyalty. So by all means be friendly, it sure beats the alternative. But, it’s a business relationship. Keep it that way.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Project Managers and Consultants - Watch your back

There any numbers of ways that you can annoy a consultancy firm, too many to list. What you have to do is make sure that your lines of communications to your manager and her manager are open, and that you know what’s being said to them about you by the consultants.

Consultants can be very manipulative as they maneuver for advantage. A key scapegoat in their book of plays is always the project manager. A primary excuse to their management is that the reason they cannot get more "wallet share" is because of you. Their managers them employ the strategy known as "getting the grit out of the machine". With you playing the role of the "grit". 

So always have your lines of communication open to all the stakeholders in your project. Always be selling the benefits of your project and your management skills. That way you minimize the chances of the being surprised. Remember the old boxing maxim: "Protect yourself at all times!". 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Project Managers: Lessons from a wedding - Communications and Malfunctions

The more we are able to communicate the more we are victims of miscommunications or malfunctions.

Last weekend I was at my eldest daughter’s – stepdaughter actually, and the importance of the distinction will be apparent as the story unfolds – wedding. The wedding was held in the Baltimore area and involved various branches of our family flying in from the UK, Texas, Oregon, and Hawaii, to name the origins of just the main participants.

Well the younger sister of the bride was flying in with her husband and toddler from Oregon on the “red eye” into BWI airport. The sisters had decided that real “Dad”, who lives in the UK and had just flown in for the festivities, would pick up the younger sister and family at the airport. This is when the first episode of miscommunication and malfunction occurred.

The miscommunication was that younger sister usually uses Southwest Airlines and she didn’t inform anyone that this time she’s using US Airways. So “Dad” is dispatched to this large airport in a strange city and land with bad information: Oops - miscommunication!

But that shouldn’t be a major problem because he’s got a mobile phone. Correction he’s got a UK mobile phone which, despite various assurances from the UK company, doesn’t work too well in the US – malfunction!

Result: fuming daughter – who’s a good little fumer when the mood takes her – sorrowful dad, and yours truly driving 20 miles at the last minute to pick up stranded family.

The second event was later the same day– “Dad” did not have a good day – and involved the wedding rehearsal: A momentous event for both Bride and “Dad”. So momentous that the bride decides to loan “Dad” her GPS system and also enter the exact address of the event. He’s also informed that he must follow the instructions and he can’t go wrong! So infallible is this system that there’s no need for an old-fashioned paper map.

Well it might have worked, I’m agnostic on GPS hence the hint of doubt in my comment, had the bride not entered the wrong building number and repeated the injunction to “just follow the directions”, 1100 is not the same as 11000. So now we have miscommunication, allied with the still malfunctioning mobile phone, no paper back up – map- and no actual building address or description. The address was in the GPS.

Result: fuming daughter, sorrowful “Dad”, and nothing your truly could do to fix it. By now “Dad” is being nicknamed “Waldo” after the children’s game “Where in the World is Waldo?” And yet it wasn’t in many regards his fault: Like King Lear he was brought low by his daughters!

So what as this to do with project managers’? Well it has a lot of learning points that are applicable to all of us.

Firstly, that second hand information is subject to distortion. “Dad” hadn’t spoken directly to second daughter so getting the wrong airline was almost guaranteed. Secondly, unless you have direct experience don’t assume that mobile phones, or any technology, will work in other countries or even parts of your own country.

Also don’t rely exclusively on technology that you are unfamiliar with and with people setting it up for you. You should always have a back up – a map or step dad. Nothing should be addressed or viewed in isolation. If you know the lay of the land: major landmarks, key people, and the general situation you can recover from malfunctions and inaccurate information. Absent them and you are lost: You are Waldo!