Align on the What, Advise on the How
Pat hated giving board updates. As the head of integration of a recent acquisition, Pat was required to provide monthly updates on the integration to the board. There was one board member, Cary, who focused on how the integration project was being done, questioning Pat on initiative processes, minor deliverables, and detailed assignments. Cary was experienced in acquisition integration and spoke from a position of authority, but Pat was also an experienced professional with six successful integration projects completed. Because of Cary’s experience and strong personality, the board chair permitted Cary to deep-dive on minutiae. Pat’s frustration with being micro-managed boiled over to the rest of the executive team, creating a tone of distrust between the board and executive team. Pat’s updates became less and less transparent, with Pat reasoning that more information was only fodder for Cary’s drilling. The integration project ultimately was completed, but the trust relationship between the board and executive team was significantly eroded.
Excerpted from The Project Management Advisor - 18 Major Project Screw-Ups And How To Cut Them Off At The Pass (Prentice Hall, 2004)
Virtually every (rational) project has at its core a need to solve some problem that is perceived by someone. Problems can manifest themselves as barriers to getting something done (“we can’t possibly ship 10,000 units/week with our existing systems”) or as opportunity to doing something better (“we need to reduce the cost of processing purchase orders by 20%”).
In any event, there is a desire to do something tomorrow that can’t be done acceptably today. Admittedly, some of the most fun projects that I have worked on have been the “omigosh, we need to get this done or else” projects. I have seen the greatest clarity of purpose on projects where there was a very real and tangible consequence to not completing the project successfully. One outstanding example of this that affected virtually every business on earth was the Y2K computer scare. One of my jobs was in ensuring that our mission-critical vendors were adequately prepared for Y2K and that there would not be any business interruption to our company as a result of a vendor’s failure to perform.
So let's get right into this....
Ever known a manager who held great respect of his or her team but was not respected by his or her management? Or maybe you've had a manager that just couldn't get things done effectively because he or she just didn't know how to "work the system"? Or even still, are you are a manager who is continually frustrated because you can't get your manager to do what you need him or her to do? If any of these sound familiar to you, welcome to the world of ineffective upward management.
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