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Oh Say, Can You See?

Fireworks1 This Independence Day holiday has been an unfortunate weekend of fender-benders for our household.  On Friday, a minivan pulled out in front of my wife.  Yesterday, while driving the rental resulting from my wife's accident, I was rear-ended by an impatient teenager.  In both cases, the drivers appeared to be impatient, and both made bad decisions based on faulty assumptions.

This sometimes happens in project management as well.  I once worked with a consulting executive who practiced "hit-and-run" project management, as he would not bother with the details (even if they were shared with him), would make assumptions based on his reality of the project, get blindsided by his own bad assumptions, and then proceed to blame others.

Project management is primarily about communication, but occasionally assumptions must be made.  Assumptions cannot be made by sitting in one's cubicle or going out having long lunches or numerous off-site meetings.

Scott Johnson from the @task blog wrote a fascinating piece about the freshness of conversation in project management.  He said that data

"are good in that if they were accurate, you could make great decisions. They are not good in that people don't trust them. By the way, we have seen this same behavior with project management systems too. People have a lot of data; green yellow and red dots; projections, plans, variances, costs, potential revenues, efficiency metrics, trends, & etc. When it comes to executive review, one piece of data seems to decide whether a project or sales opportunity, a project manager, or a sales manager gets additional executive attention - that piece of data is the conversational status and it's freshness." 
Well said, Scott!.  If a project manager really has no clue what is going on, then no amount of statistical data can save his or her tail.  They need to be walking around, talking to team mates, listening to (and documenting issues), and generally communicating.  On one client,  I juggled three major initiatives.  The CIO asked me how I was able to do it, and I honestly told him I had amazing teams on all three, relied on them, and communicated with them.  I'm not a superman PM, and quite honestly, multi-tasking has never been a strong suit.  But I was really been lucky to have great teams who understood the power of conversation, of communication, and observation to get things done.

But maybe you're the type of project manager who enjoys seeing fireworks in an office setting on a regular basis.  If that's the case, sit in your cubicle, keep your head down, talk to nobody, and keep quiet.  You'll eventually have more fireworks than you can imagine.

On behalf of my fellow contributors, Happy Independence Day from all of us here at Iowabiz!

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