Project Management Tips

13. What if your project is late because some managers fail to cooperate?


Without encouraging "career-limiting behavior" I can only make suggestions about what you as a project manager can do the next time to cover your own posterior. (None of these suggestions address the behavior of the managers since this appears to be outside the scope of your authority and control as the project manager. Without the organizational authority to affect their behavior, there is little point in trying to impact them. You probably won't succeed and it may have serious repercussions for you personally.)

  1. Don't take the situation too personally. There is a real danger in getting too emotionally "invested" in your projects. When this happens, anything that negatively impacts the project - whether you can do anything about it or not - takes on a sinister aspect. You must accept that there will always be things that will impact your projects over which you have little or no control. When these occur, you can only react as best you can with the good of the project as your primary aim.

  2. Make sure that the impact of withheld information, resources, work output, etc., is clear. A good change-control process is helpful here. It allows you to describe the change being made as well as the impact of that change on the project. Document this and be sure that everyone who should be informed is informed.

  3. Realize that shifting priorities are a fact of organizational life. Priorities change constantly in any organization. New challenges arise that require a response from the organization and that response requires that resources be moved from one activity to another. In most instances, those resources come from projects that are  as a result of the shift in emphasis  no longer as important as they were yesterday. Unfortunately, many times, the project manager is not told the reason they've lost their resources.

  4. Document what happens. Always document the things that happen during a project. Never assume that "everyone knows why this happened." They may, but, then again, they may not, or they may have a completely different understanding of the situation. Try to document the occurrence in a factual way. Try to avoid accusations and conjecture about "why" the thing happened. Document what happened and the impact it had on the project. A good change-control system can help with this. This documentation should become part of the total project documentation and can be included as part of the final project report. A good, carefully worded narrative about why the project was delivered late can reference this documentation.
  5. Use your sponsor. A sponsor is someone in a position of authority in the organization who has agreed to act on behalf of you and the project when an issue is outside your scope of authority and control. If you do not normally identify a sponsor for your projects, seriously consider doing so. One of the functions of a sponsor is to intercede in situations like the one you described. When a conflict occurs, the sponsor should be informed and asked for both advice and for direct assistance in resolving the conflict. The most common conflicts are over needed resources but they can also occur over issues of cooperation and delivery of work or information.

None of these suggestions directly address what to do about the situation that has already occurred. They are, however, something to think about for future projects.  Also see my Tips and Tricks on Getting Support from Managers.

If you and your manager are both using Project KickStart, the chance of miscommunication greatly decreases. Project managers and corporate bigwigs alike love Project KickStart.

 

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Jeff Crow is a Portland, Oregon consultant and trainer. He conducts seminars and workshops on project management and organizational development for corporations and through the Professional Development Center at Portland State University.

Find out about Jeff's on-site workshops.

 

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