This is what happens to projects in the real world! Don’t get caught out!
PROJECTS THAT ARE ALWAYS WORTH DOING:
1] Copying your competitor:
Find a product that your competitors are selling and then do the same. Copying is the sincerest form of flattery, plus as they are likely to be better than you, the fact they are doing it means it has got to be a good idea
2] From any management book:
Just filter the ideas from a bestseller like ‘13 Habits of Smug Know Alls’ to fit your company profile plus if it goes pear shaped then you can always say Conglomerate Plc did this successfully in 1995 and it was someone else’s fault that it didn’t work here.
3] The standard ‘can’t fail to impress’ projects list:
a] Cost reduction by downsizing the work force
b] Departmental reorganisation
c] Firing the existing provider of an outsourced function and hiring another similar company.
THE PROJECT TEAM:
The Project Manager:
Project Managers organise stuff, like meetings, actions and risk registers. Be nice to the PM, because you don’t want any actions assigned to you. The Project Manager is ideally a contractor so can be blamed and then fired if things are not going well.
The Programme Manager:
They provide progress and status reports plus presentations. Can also be wheeled in front of management to explain what is happening, saving you the time finding out. Also need to be kept on-side, as the presentations they create will be used by you to justify your job.
They take notes and tell your peers and other stakeholders what to do and then hound them, whilst you take on the onerous task of handing out the plaudits and any good news.
The only person on the project team that knows what they are doing and also has the detail, they are usually passionate and incomprehensible but vital or you’ll deliver a chocolate kettle – lovely but useless.
Usually a couple of appropriate Middle Managers. Their teams are supporting the project or delivering parts of it. They don’t want to be there as this is extra work for no benefit to them. Don’t make eye contact or you’ll get excuses.
Fierce ones round everyone up by reorganising their diaries for you. Friendly ones bring you buns and can get you out of meetings when you need to exit fast.
PROJECT TASKS AND ACTIONS:
These are perfect storms of overlaps and infighting. This is good as you can use the teams’ antagonism towards each other to ensure they don’t bother you with any trivia or work and by showing favouritism to individuals to ensure that they suck up to you and do your bidding rather than the teams
Briefing the team:
In a nutshell you need to communicate that it’s a key deliverable for the board, you’re only interested in the big picture so you don’t want problems only solutions and as a motivator add that if it doesn’t come together on time and on budget they are all fired, sorry downsized.
Demand monthly updates, or weekly if you think you can get away with it, as a full blown, chart ridden, metric heavy presentation. These should be 20 or 30 slides and needs a one page executive summary of the important bits, as you won’t have time to read the rest.
Report back to the board:
This should be monthly and saying how well its going. Don’t take anything but the summary to the meeting or some clever clog is going to start questioning the data. If asked to provide more detail, simply say you will take an action to get back to them on that and then castigate your team for not including the answer in the summary. Also remember to never get back to a questioner with an answer they don’t want. Better not to get back to them at all, if possible, as it will only encourage further questions.
These are tasks that need to be completed before the next project meeting. Think Bubonic plague here. Keep away from Actions and anyone who might give you one. To stretch this tenuous metaphor further, if you are a carrier then feel free to infect others.
An unfortunate fact of life is that things don’t always go to plan and because you are an MCA you don’t have a Plan B anyway. So if a project you are leading is going pear shaped, start looking for scapegoats. Your project team members are the first obvious choice and you may need to throw one or two to the wolves during the project anyway. To paraphrase a French Admiral commenting on the execution of an English Admiral: ‘It’s to encourage the others’.
However this is small fry and the action is expected. The crucial requirement is to involve your peers, so set up a ‘Steering Board’ for the project. This needs to include the Senior Management of any department involved or affected by your project. At this level they won’t be ‘detail’ people so you can get away with telling them very little. Keep it simple and talk about ‘joined up approaches’, ‘key issues being addressed’ and ‘corporate governance’. Your steering board will lap this up and by the mere fact that they turned up can now be allocated partial blame in any cock up.
There are two types of project endings. The first finishes on time, on budget and achieves its objectives. This type doesn’t concern us here, as it is a very rare occurrence and you just have to claim the plaudits. In reality, most projects fizzle out when either its clear it won’t work or when the collateral damage to the rest of the organisation becomes so great that your colleagues get nervous and jump overboard, i.e. they stop turning up to meetings.
Both are positive results. There’s no blame attached and you are remembered for the positive reports that indicated clearly you were on top of the task the whole time it was running. You can also afford to look slightly disappointed that the project was ended and will get some sympathy from the senior management for its cancellation. Always, of course, put a brave face on it and say how you can also see the ‘big picture’ that they can and fully understand and support their wise decision to can it.
Extract from the best selling How To Get To The Top Without Working Too Hard (Dick Lannister)
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