This part three of a three-part series on Mastering Credibility. Part one is It's What You Know and part two is It's The Relationships You Build.
Bert was an associate at a premier management consulting firm.
Over the years he specialized in providing advice to senior management in information technology organizations. Generally he had some pretty insightful ideas that many of the rank and file in the client organization viewed as a bit theoretical. His advice was typically accompanied by general implementation timelines which client organizations rarely took verbatim. Bert's advice usually culminated in some type of a Powerpoint presentation to the senior client management; then it was off to the next assignment.
For years Bert had been trying to get a foot into the door of Laner Robotics.
This part two of a three-part series on Mastering Credibility. Part one is It's What You Know and part three is It's How You Deliver Results.
Ever since childhood, Mark had been known as an in-your-face competitor...
Whether it be in sports, in the classroom, or in relationships, he wasn't happy unless he beat someone else at whatever he was doing. Being in competition to Mark meant that he was going to do whatever he could to ensure he won and that his competitor lost. Those on his team loved his competitive spirit and encouraged it; those not on his team feared him. His behavior was validated through the number of trophies and medals he received while growing up.
As an adult his competitive spirit didn't wane. He became a feared negotiator in his company's purchasing organization and became known as a pompous ass who would stop at nothing to ensure that his suppliers were giving up as much as possible so his company could get a better deal. Suppliers hated to deal with him, but his company was too big to ignore so they put up with him.
This is part one of a three-part series on Mastering Credibility. Part two is It's The Relationships You Build and part three is It's How You Deliver Results.
Jeff was the quintessential schmoozer.
He was one of those guys who was the life of the party. He could walk into any room and instantly be the one that everyone else focused on. His charm, wit, and charisma was the envy of his friends and colleagues. Being in his senior year of college, Jeff saw huge dollar signs in his future as a salesperson. Though he was an average student with average grades, Jeff felt that his ability to wine and dine customers was going to be his ticket to being a big-money salesperson. With his wit and charm, how could customers resist?
One of my column readers recently sent in this question: One of our senior project managers left abruptly in the middle of a 3 year million $ contract. What experience and education would you consider in promoting a replacement?
Ooh, good meaty problem. Not so simple a solution.
A sad tale of a how a sponsor/PM relationship killed a project...
Exec identifies a need for a project and nominates self as sponsor. PM gets assigned to project and assembles project team. Sponsor is vague about problem to be solved other than "we need a new system". PM can't communicate problem to be solved to the team because he doesn't understand what the problem is. Sponsor continues to ask for more and more things to be included in project, PM doesn't have courage to say no. PM treats sponsor as "that person in the corner office" and doesn't know how to ask for help, so he escalates everything. Sponsor has to make some tough decisions but is unwilling to do so because of the political fallout. PM provides bad information about decision alternatives so sponsor ignores him. Due to changing priorities project no longer makes sense to do, but PM lobbies to keep the project going. Sponsor loses interest because there are bigger fish to fry. PM and team are disillusioned because sponsor doesn't care. Project dies a slow death. R.I.P.
While this is a fictional story, you can undoubtedly relate to most of these things happening on one project or another in your career. The sponsor/PM partnership on a project is one of those "soft skill" factors that gets frequently overlooked when assessing a PM's skills but is a key determinant in the success or failure of a project. Under a healthy partnership, the sponsor and PM work as a singular unit to ensure the project gets what it needs to be as successful as possible using only as many resources as absolutely necessary to secure success. Under a less than healthy relationship the project will undoubtedly cost more in time and money assuming it even gets completed at all.
Throughout my career I've been both a sponsor and a PM and have first-hand experience in how this relationship needs to work from both sides of the desk. Through my experience, I've locked down on ten truths which I feel are crucial to securing a healthy sponsor/PM partnership. See if these resonate with you:
Several years back a colleague of mine (I'll call the colleague "Nellie") was managing a very high-visibility project. This project was high on the radar of key executives all the way up to the CEO of the company and any major mis-steps would send fireworks up the chain faster than lightning. This was one of those "thrill-seeker" projects; definitely high risk but also of high reward if the project was successful. Nellie was up to the challenge and willingly accepted the assignment.
Talk about your character-building experience...
I was a young hot-shot project manager on an engagement that I had sold to a client. I had it all planned out and had delusions of completely delighting my client with an issue-free project. It all seemed so simple, then the project started...and never finished.
I'll spare you the gory details of my harrowing experience but what I can tell you is that I put more focus on selling and planning the project than I did on its execution. I took a naive attitude of the project being able to pretty much run itself with some junior analysts running the day-to-day aspects of the work. It blew up in my face and I got booted from the client never to return again. It was my inaugural visit to the project management guillotine.
Some time back I was responsible for a portfolio of projects being done within the finance organization of my company. One of the projects was outsourced to a large consulting firm who supplied the project management, analysis, and development resources to the project. I would hold weekly meetings with the project manager who consistently gave me a "thumbs up" on the project up to the first key milestone being hit. When the week of the first milestone approached, he announced that the milestone was going to have to slip by a week to ensure successful delivery. The next week came along and again the project slipped a week. This went on for two more weeks with the promise of "we'll for sure nail it next week." I decided to do some crawling around the project to assess where the project was really at. Turns out we were at least a month away from delivering to the milestone which was already a month late.
Excerpted from The Project Management Advisor - 18 Major Project Screw-Ups And How To Cut Them Off At The Pass (Prentice Hall, 2004)
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