Taming the Many-headed Monster and Making it Serve You
Sometimes it is helpful to tell an absurd story in order to illustrate a point. Here goes mine. Picture this: You walk into your weekly progress meeting with your client or your client's client (i.e., the owner). You sit down at the conference table with other subs and contractors. Your project foreman and your boss are there, ostensibly to lend support. Strength in numbers. Pretty good idea. Sounds like the perfect setup for the Full Contact PM, doesn't it?
Your boss is the senior project manager of your company, and your foreman has as many years field experience as you have years of life - he's been doing it forever! The construction manager has just addressed a question to your company. It's the usual kind of thing, like, "How come you haven't done such and such yet?" You have been expecting this question, because you have done your homework, so you've got good answers. You are about to open your mouth and illuminate the entire room with your brilliance and leadership, but your boss jumps in first. You think to yourself, "Wait just a darn minute! Aren't I the PM?" Hold that thought a moment.
Your boss is about the nicest guy in the world. He feels badly when things don't go well on the job. He's an honest man and doesn't mind saying something like, "You know, right now we're just kind of screwed up, and we're having a tough time getting things right." You cringe in horror. Instantly, however, another brilliant thought comes to your mind, and you can help your boss out by explaining to the CM that what your boss actually meant to say was such and such. Yes, it will work. You are indeed brilliant! You open your mouth to bail out your boss, but your foreman beats you to the punch.
Your foreman has lived this situation. And he's also an honest guy, so he says something like, "Yeah, we just can't get any good help these days. That crew we have on the job - not our best. In fact, we picked up half of them off of the street last week, so they're still learning. If they don't quit on us, a couple of them could become pretty good hands in a few months."
Your only remaining brilliant (and private) thought is, "Now where did I put my resume?"
OK, so maybe the story is a bit far-fetched. But maybe your boss or foreman did say something like, "We can definitely do this" or, "No, I can't see it costing that much" or, "We probably should have noticed that when we bid it."
Enough, already! It's wonderful to be honest, but an honest statement should come only after reflecting and meditating on the total picture. In other words, shoot neither from the hip nor the lip!
What's the proper Full Contact PM approach to this problem? According to Coach Gary, it's the PM's preemptive strike, and it begins this way: The PM is the single point of contact, and all communication between your company and your client should flow through the PM, and only the PM. Your company does all it can to keep its PM on this project from beginning to end. Your company realizes that, when they change PMs, it will cost them money, which is no different than changing the foreman on the job.
Now here's the lesson: Instead of the three of you going into the meeting blind, you have a short "meeting before the meeting," and you lay out the issues and where you are going with them. The PM is supported by the considerable field and business experience of the foreman and boss, and there is no contradiction. Each player has his playbook open to the same page, and the PM presents a unified front. You are a team; your goal is to all be running the same play, to score and to win.
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.
Copyright © 2005, Gary Micheloni and Full Contact Project Management