Web Project Management Analogy – Part 5

by Bogdan on February 5, 2010

Online Project as a Submarine: The Unusual Alarm Bells from the Head Quarters

What are the early warning signs that the project is not going as smooth as your sponsors would like?

A quick note: the post is not based on any scientific evidence, but just empirical observations. Similar to my previous analogies on how an online project management is like riding a submarine: in this case the Admiral is – in project terms – the sponsor or someone with a strong say in supporting or killing a project. Don’t get me wrong: these guys needs have to be understood – as early as possible.

Saying things:

“I like this, we should have it as well”: usually this is the “me too” syndrome, as the Admiral want something just because competitors have it.
Hint: explore with him the consequences of changing the scope

“Proceed immediately – get it done ASAP”: unless entitled (e.g.: you are late with the delivery) the “whatever it takes” syndrome might indicate a sudden change in the project scope
Hint: ask for clarification, understand the drive for this urgency.

“Don’t worry – I know this better”: the Admiral may know something you are not aware of, but sometimes he would confuse his preferences with his competency.
Hint: test where the issue stands. Don’t forget he is entitled to make decisions – and if he is wrong, explain him, but if he decides (even if you don’t agree) make sure you push yourself and the crew to make the project a success.

“I want more reports on my desk”: without any other explanation, this often reflects that the Admiral either does not understand certain activities, or feels his control is slipping away.
Hint: walk him through the issues, be transparent and try to find out what started all this

“Start the meeting without me”: while the Admiral might be just busy, it may also indicate that he has lost appetite and interest for your project
Hint: make sure the project is still aligned with the overall strategy of the fleet

Doing things:

Number of people CCed in Admiral’s emails increases: hard to explain this one, but usually when more people are included in the formal communication (especially those with tangential interest in the project) something might be wrong.
Hint: first reassure Admiral (privately, is possible) that as long as you take have the authority, you will also have the project’s responsibility

Delayed replies or no replies from Admiral to your emails: the Admiral might not have enough information (waiting for more information), might lost his interest for the project, way too busy or -and here might be a serious issue – hesitant of taking a decision.
Hint: do not contemplate the “no news, good news” scenario: push for an answer

Admiral engages on one on one with members of your crew: usually this is a trust issue, or might be just testing an idea the Admiral came up with, without the hassle of asking permission form you
Hint: understand where Admiral perceives you as wishy-washy, unreliable, uncaring or incompetent.

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