Month: July 2017

The gold of the clients’ feedback

“Thank you. It is the first time someone asks about our experience with the new processes”. I still remember the voice of the regional branch director I had on phone about ten years ago.

The project was a simple deal to the project team in the head office: design, test, launch. As the launch was done in all regional branches, I anticipated animosities. I had no clue of the kind to expect, as the product was new and the processes – run in a change management environment. My risks mitigation strategy was simple: a feedback form and a call line for the branches to give their immediate feedback. As a result, IT, client communication and staff learning issues were signaled on time and the project team was able to deal with them efficiently. At the receiving end, the customers felt no bumps and continued their business as usual.

Creating a framework for feedback is also a reliable tool for the project manager to address low or mediocre performance in the project team.  When facing a confused or angry user during a phone call, team members tend to understand better how much depends on how well they do their job.

If of interest,  you can read more on this here

Listen. Learn. Give back. And repeat.0

What to Do When the Project Sponsor Says No

Here it is! The product of your sleepless nights – a shiny new project proposal. You love it. You cherish it. You think it’s “the one and only” and that others will share your enthusiasm and love of it. And then the project’s sponsor says “No”. It comes as a thunder in a sunny Summer day. Or, you start getting hints that it will not be approved and that other options might need to be considered. Here are some of the options I noticed project managers taking:

Option A. The project manager will push for it and bring in all the heavy artillery he/she has in arsenal. Sometimes, the risks and benefits are weighted.

Option B. The project manager drops it. He/she goes home or to a bar and drowns the bitterness of disappointment in a glass or two of something bitter. Or he /she puts the pic of the sponsor on the wall and throws darts at it. Or chooses other harmless ways of dealing with the feelings.

Option C. The project manager repositions and starts seeing what the sponsor sees. He/she then realigns the proposal and reconsiders the timing. Usually, a resubmission follows.

Option D. The project manager goes to another sponsor. And it is usually cap in hand, if he/she firmly believes in the project idea. It is mynkind of option: If i am on a dead end road it does not mean someone else does not have a helicopter to pick up the load.

Each option warrants careful consideration in terms of costs of taking the No as an answer from financial to reputational aspects in each particular case.

Accepting a No can be hard. Moving beyond a No can be harder. Your choice and living with the consequences of it depends on your values and the importance you, as a project manager, attach to your ideas and the professional relation you have with the project beneficiary. At the end of the day, it is them who pay for the lost opportunity or benefit from you not taking No as an answer.

This is what my kid did when i said No to a Lego number one hundred something. I am inspired.

Do you take No as an answer?


Inspired by “What to Do When Your Boss Says No” by Scott Sonenshein, February 06, 2017, Harvard Business Review.

Fruits from seeds: life post-projects

Something very special happened about a month ago. I was at an international conference with one of the past project’s partners – the Moldovan Young Lawyers Association. We were invited to speak about what worked and what could have been better in the project’s efforts to build the capacity of the organisation we supported.

The session we had to speak at had a tough moderator. The type who says “No” to 9 out of 10 questions. Anyway, my co-speaker asked for the floor. “No”, the moderator said turning his head towards the next scheduled speaker. “It’s only 20 seconds”, he insisted, and lowered to pick something from his bag. He stood up and started with “I would like to thank Oxana…,” and handed me a shining certificate of appreciation. Big time surprize. “I hope someone took a picture” said the moderator loudly, impressed with the gesture and timing. I was and I still am immensely touched. Did I at least say “Thank you!”?

The certificate says “in recognition of the efficient support”. I only did my job: couple of meetings, several phone calls and a dozen of emails. Some paperwork. In fairness, this partner and his colleagues did all the work. Moreover, with the contacts we helped them get, they moved their organisation forward and became members of the European Young Bar Association. And that is my biggest project manager’s dream: see the fruits from the seeds we planted. A life post-project to continue and to last. That is my motivation shot. Thank you, Moldovan Young Lawyers Association! You are really the best and deserve the very best!

A month latter, another investment in relations from last year cascaded to a response visit from Gdansk lawyers to Cahul lawyers. Another fruit from seeds planted in support of regional initiatives, to be taken to a new level. Thank you, Gdansk Bar and Cahul Bar! May this continue to the benefit of all of you.

“We do not choose our clients” was one of my early professional life advices I got. And we rarely know the soil on which the projects plant seeds. But with joint hard work, devotion, care and Sun from fun, they grow roots and stems, leafs and flowers and eventually deliver fruits for us all to enjoy.

Logframes and How to get excited about topics that bore you

Who loves logframes? I do not.

Several years ago I was drafting a logframe for a 2,5 million Euro project. I puffed and huffed over it for couple of days. It would not make progress. It was still an empty table. Then I realised that disliking it, cost me more. More time, more effort, more energy.

I came across this article these days:

How to Get Excited About Topics that Bore You, by Barbara Oakley,

A useful reading on how to overcome the boredom or the feeling of discomfort towards something that is necessary to be done.

The story of the logframe has a happy ending: the project was approved and successfully implemented. Keeping my mind on the long-term perspective was indeed beneficial.