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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Are your projects in PAIN?

As I was contemplating what to write about this week I received a desperate phone call and an even more desperate email from 2 different clients. Both of them pleading with me to see what we could do to help them fix a "special project" that had gone awry.

While neither client or their projects had anything to do with the other, the reason their projects were now in a mess were due to the same underlying issue. A bad decision to hire “amateurs to perform professional job”.

You see, each of them felt the tasks needing to be done in order to complete the project were simple enough. One even stated their project manager indicated they felt it was as simple as "jumping out of a plane". To their point, when they broke out the individual tasks they "thought" needed to be done, it did seem pretty simple. This is where they made mistake number 1. Their ignorance of what it really took to do the job right caused them to underestimate the effort and the budget required.

Mistake number 2 was their arrogance in thinking they know how to do this and they would not need any outside help to figure this out, as this would undermine their perception with their peers and upper management. After all, they were hired to get this project done.

Because of the growing tide of siloed and even covert social hierarchies (narcissism) within their respective organizations, they made mistake number 3 by not getting advice or a gut check from other departments on their planned course of action.

The final culprit in their projects’ demise is their now normal culture of panic which has been developing throughout the organization as more and more people are hired who are not yet "professionals" themselves. These new hires have a tendency to want to prove they belong and mistakenly work in panic rather than urgency. You've probably witnessed the frantic paced effort of these new recruits yourself, so task saturated they can't remember to eat lunch. This is a sure sign of a culture of panic. Panic makes things worse. Urgency should make things better. When people are working in panic mode they tend to take shortcuts and not think things all the way through resulting in quick but often deadly decisions. This was mistake number 4.

So lets get back to the projects, the one’s that are as simple as jumping out of an airplane. After all, jumping out of an airplane is simple enough if you break it down into each of the tasks required;
  1. jump
  2. fall
  3. pull cord
  4. stop

While their projects;
  1. rolling out training and communication for a new enterprise software application
  2. broadcasting a live annual corporate event and providing a portal for the content to be viewed real time or 24x7 (after the events are over) by the rest of the organization.

These could be broken down into basic tasks that seem trivial however they grossly miscalculated the complexity of the timing of all the tasks and more importantly, the knowledge, skill, experience and perseverance required of the personnel should something unexpected occur during the process.

This is where each client learned the hard lesson of just how expensive it is to hire "just anyone" to help. You see, in a moment of panic due to skipping the detailed planning process for fear of not wanting to look weak by asking for help, and thinking they could do this alone and make a name for themselves, the new project managers made some really bad choices.

I have known both of the leaders we work with at these companies for over 5 years and have found them to be very competent professionals themselves in their own fields of expertise. The root problem lies with their organizations growing PAINs that have emerged as a result of their business growth. When I refer to PAIN,  I mean the emergence of Panic, Arrogance, Ignorance, and Narcissism within their culture.

Fortunately, we were able to help them tactically and get their projects back on track and completed successfully. We then began implementing our process of PAIN management within the leadership and ranks of their organization.

So when you are faced with an important project, who do want working on your team ? Do you want true professionals or do you want amateurs who one day simply wish to be professionals  or falsely claim to be professionals for a self serving purpose?

I would love your feedback and thoughts on this topic.


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