No Pain No Gain

Exceptional project management is an uncomfortable place. Those who are the most successful, are those who swiftly identify risks and are able to provide deep insight into what could happen if situations are not resolved. The beauty of these individuals is they have an innate, internal magnifying glass and can almost predict situations. Often times, organizations often do not respond well to these individuals. I equate it to somewhat of an antiseptic and burn or obtrusion situation.

Just think about pouring antiseptic on a cut. It often stings, burns, and is uncomfortable for a bit, but it helps heal and helps prevent the situation from getting worse. A good project manager and business leader can have the same effect. Message delivery definitely matters to help the organization handle the burn. I find that most organizations are not as receptive to short-term pain for long-term gains. We want the quick and immediate solution, or to even pretend the situation will get better without the antiseptic intervention. Below are a few tips I have for helping the situation:

  1. Build trust across the organization – building trust involves not only being trustworthy, but also meeting your commitments and striving to do the right thing in all situations.
  2. Identify what-if scenarios – Prepare some justification to why you believe a situation needs to change and what may occur if the situation doesn’t change.
  3. Develop analogies – I particularly like this one and find it challenging, but effective. Analyze the situation and try to equate it to a household example completely unrelated to the business you are in. This helps detach from any biases on the current situation, while making your case for what could occur.
  4. Educate your organization on project management – It is important for your organization to understand your mindset and why you are a magnet for identifying what could go wrong. The more your organization can understand project management and the value, the more open they will be to the feedback you provide.
  5. Lead the horse to water multiple times, even if they aren’t ready to drink – No matter how strong of a case you make or how strong your relationships, you may need to repeat your message and deliver in different ways, with different analogies. This can be time consuming, but if the issue at hand is important enough, then you should persevere, adjust your approach with each attempt and above all, stick it out.

A Project Manager’s job often involves delivering bad news or news others are not ready to hear. The steps above are some ways to impart your strong judgment, while improving the organization at large.

Michael Ortiz

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