dare to persevere even in adversity, especially if your job is Project Manager

do not even attempt to always please everyone

Project manager’s role sometimes appears thankless; in particular to those who strive for recognition and appreciation of others. Indeed, producing in due time quality deliverables under constrained costs requires decisions that are not always welcomed by all.

  • The technician of the team may have difficulty in accepting that we do not use the latest version of the database engine.
  • The customer will be tempted to add requirements along the way without taking the time to fully specify them and expecting no impact on costs and schedule.
  • The sponsor can at the same time reduce the budget, refuse any compromise on the launch date and reject risk-taking or perimeter reductions.

Some examples that many of us live through and this happens almost daily. Thus, there will inevitably be compromises to look for and not everybody will see his/her dream come true.

One of my first managers when I started as software developer used to tell customers: “It is very simple. We have 3 parameters: Time, Contents and Costs. Pick 2 parameters and give me freedom on the third one”. A little bit extreme I concede, but there is a lot of truth in this very simple and direct message. It’s not always possible to win on all boards. Therefore, it is important (read critical) for the project manager to understand on which axis he can eventually expect some flexibility.

understand the position of opponents and partners

An English consultant I had the chance to work with for several years had a very sharp sense of politics in its most interesting meaning to us, project managers. He always asked the question (and often out at loud so that I could benefit from his experience): “What could Mr or Mrs X gain in helping us to make this project a success?”

This voluntarily positive stance in the search of how to sell the project to each person was very useful in the many countries and organizations we worked with. The corollary was “what could Mr or Mrs. X be afraid of or have to lose because of the project?” is also an interesting approach to work on your sales arguments.

remain constructive at all times

A project is rarely a long and quiet river. Bustles will be numerous and the rapids and tough passages also. When things are going well, it is quite easy to be positive and constructive. But it is when they harden and do not go as we wish that it is most important for the leader to keep in mind that his own attitude is observed and is essential for team members. He cannot give up, nor vent some pessimistic comments… It is his constructive strength that will step by step, stone after stone, help the project team to progress towards satisfactory if not ideal solutions.

keep up the good work

Finally, the road is long towards the success of the project. As for a marathon man, it is necessary:

  1. to get ready for the inevitable difficulties
  2. not to run out of juice by throwing all our strengths in the beginning of race
  3. to find the correct rhythm and keep up until the final straight line where it will be necessary to accelerate if we have some strength left

It is necessary to run the full distance and make it to the finish line!


Photo credit: © Warren Goldswain - Fotolia.com

Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at http://dantotsupm.com/