Stroke the Ego of Your Stakeholders!

In the continuing series of answering questions asked after my presentations of Stop Playing Games! here is the next question I received:

"When you stated that Project Managers don't publish negative facts about the project for fear of backlash from their stakeholders, you mentioned that you should stroke their ego...how do you do that?"

That is a great question and  a technique that is not utilized often enough, in my opinion.  Project managers are often naysayers or are viewed as the ones who are very negative.  I think part of it is how we were taught.  We were taught to own the project.  Success and failure...it is the project manager's to own.  I think we should own the leadership, but there is a fundamental flaw in this belief.  It is not our scope, it is not our budget, most likely it is not our date...so what exactly do we own?  Where did it become the norm that the project manager owns the outcome of a decision that they did not make?

Rolling with this theory, if we don't own it...then all we can do is facilitate it.  PM's must remember to ask for what they need and push the decision back to where it belongs.....the stakeholder or sponsor.  This is where we stroke the ego.  Make sure that you ask them...not tell them.....what they would like to do.  It goes something like this:

Mr. or Ms. Sponsor, we have an opportunity on this project, but I really need your help.  In order to secure the date that you have asked for, we would need to get an additional three resources.  However, we could move some scope around as well.  Not sure what the best answer is and I could really use your advice.

This pushed the decision back to the sponsor, but also shows that you respect them and their opinion.

So the technique is to truly value their opinion and bring them into the decision making process.  I have seen so many projects fail due to unrealistic demands where the date, budget, score, or how unrealistic the demands are discussed with the sponsors or stakeholders.  In my experience, if you get the data that you need, come up with options not problems, and present them in a respectful manner, you will be more successful.

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Hoping you too can find your life's passion,

Rick

Padding....is it really bad?

The great debate for project managers....is padding an estimate bad?  In my new book, I say that padding is one of the worst things that you can do because it proves that you do not believe your own estimates!

As part of a new series of blog posts, I will be responding to questions that have been sent me in response to the book Stop Playing Games!  The first question that I received was, "Padding is for known and unknown risks and events in the future.  Why do you say padding is bad?"

Padding is actually not for known and unknown risks.  It is actually a blanket percentage that a project manager will put on top of their estimates just to cover them from blowing their budget.  It generally isn't scientific or have any thought pattern behind it other than lumping a generic percentage on top.  This practice has been around for ages.  We have conditioned our executives by doing this practice.  They have learned that they can cut 10-20% of the budget without consequence.  They are aware of the padding and are accustomed to chopping off a generic percentage.  Thus, the game is played.  Can you out add a generic percentage that your sponsor will cut?

This generally all occurs without too much conversation as well.  This game is played and is played in silence.  To combat this, there should be an honest conversation.  The project manager should be honest in their estimates and use risk and risk information to plan for a true contingency.  This is not padding, but a practice known as contingency planning.  Once the contingency is planned and the reasons for it are documented, present that to the sponsor.  When they try to remove a generic percentage, challenge them with the planned contingency and explain why it is there.

Having an honest conversation and talking about risk versus padding can lead to a true budget fostered in trust between the sponsor and project manager.  That is a fantastic place to start!

For now,

Rick