So, the attendees submitted homework for me and I wrote some brutal responses. See what you think. Would love your feedback!
Questions and Answers
DARE to be a Successful Project Manager
With Lou Russell
Originally aired January 21, 2015
Note from Lou: So, please pardon my blunt responses to these questions. Read past my response to see the truth in seeking first to collaborate on projects, communicating early and often and pushing value over deadlines. The work we do providing learning and development (performance growth) for people is sacred work that makes an enormous impact on professional lives and self-esteem when done thoughtfully. Don’t compromise.
Q: How do you handle a situation where the Project Sponsor or Manager is a 'control' freak and it takes 7 months to get a simple project charter completed? – Christine
A: Christine: My first answer is to continue your job search – lots of openings for great PMs who can influence others and do L&D work. Another answer is to share the link to this webinar with him/her or buy a copy of my 10 Steps to Successful PM book for him/her. Won’t work though, because it sounds like this person is very fearful of failure and is paralyzed and inflexible because of it. Here’s a very strange suggestion – you could really work to make the manager feel competent and successful (authentically of course) by not pushing back like I’m sure you are (I would be). This person may feel that you aren’t able to do this well, and it’s fair to ask directly if this is the case and how you can develop to where you can be trusted. At the same time use my Project Charter to communicate and collaborate with the other stakeholders. Sort of live in two different worlds… move the project forward while helping with a very perfect document on the side.
Q: How can you get people to leave you alone at the end of a project and stop making changes? – Mark
A: Mark, it sounds kind of Zen but the end depends on the beginning. First, you can’t make everyone leave you alone at the end because there will always be someone who jumps in at the last minute and is afraid that someone will notice that they haven’t helped at all (you have noticed). To proactively prevent this from occurring, share the Project Charter will all the Stakeholders even if you have to track them down individually (they don’t come to your meetings). Clarify the Governance process – what one person will determine DONE (hopefully someone who is engaged) and who is allowed to change things and when (not at the end). There’s a lot of politics involved here so obviously if the CEO blows in at the end he/she can change anything. The Project Charter well communicated and clearly built is the best pre-emptive strike.
If it still happens, remember this phrase “Yes, I’d love to add red Courier text font to all the materials (or whatever the thing is) and the impact will be it will add 3 more weeks and $ 45000 to the budget. “ Clearly use your numbers, this is not a bluff.
Q: What is the best way to be more accurate in your estimates of how long other people's tasks will take?
A: Stop telling them how long they will take. It’s a lie because you don’t know. What right do you have to tell someone else how to do their job and how long it takes? Doesn’t that make you mad when people do that to you? If these people work for you (you are their leader / manager it’s always a better leadership process to let them determine capacity and discuss it with them. Here are other alternatives:
- Tell people what date you need their work done by and tell them very early so they can fit it in to their other priorities… OR…
- Ask them how much time on the calendar (not how much effort if uninterrupted) it will take them to get the work done.
Q: How can you control a project more effectively? - Taylor
A: You did not do the drawing exercise did you? On the second slide (first past the opening slide) I asked everyone to cross out the word CONTROL under “MANAGE”. You cannot control a project. What you can do is adapt, adjust and be resilient. You don’t own the project, your organization owns the project so you have no right to control it. You must evolve and emerge it to deliver the value the organization needs. That is not a straight road. Collaborate, barter, tell the truth and carry this value home.
Q: What can you do to make sure people don't change their minds later? – Mike
A: Nothing really. Do others do a good job making sure you don’t change your mind? Nope, doesn’t work for me but here’s some tips. If you over communicate with them – share everything, all the time, always asking for their feedback – you’ll keep them in the loop and they won’t be surprised by new stuff at the end. An accurate updated status report consistently delivered every week always takes the surprise element away.
What is the best idea for driving performance change came at the very end? Is it better to implement a less amazing solution or wait a bit and really make it awesome? Does checking it off as done trump value?
Q: How can I do a better job at saying "no" to all the changes people ask for?
A: Stop saying NO. Instead say, “Yes I can do that, and the impact will be this… more time, more money, more help, etc. “ Always ask for some time (24 hours to figure out what the impact is – don’t be forced into a corner and give an answer that is not completely though out.
“This has been the best webinar I've attended. I'm a college senior working as an intern at a T&D company and these ideas are definitely applicable to both my school work and my internship work. Thank you very much for this experience!” - Kayla
“FABULOUS PRESENTATION!” – Amanda
“Thank you for a very engaging and informative webinar, Lou! One of the best I've attended.” - Lisa