How to work with a client who has a new idea every day

You have your project plan approved. It was a tough job to get to it. You finally have it nice and shiny on your dashboard and want to proceed according to plan. That might not be your client/stakeholder’s reality though. They might think that the plan is a thing of the past and after their morning coffee (or last night drink) they have new bright ideas about the product they want. And they will share it by email, sms, whatsapp, skype and whatever apps they have on their phone. Hello, roller coaster of ideas!

No panic, as my swimming instructor says. There are a couple of strategies you can make use of.  Make sure your client does not read this. 

  1. Use you empathy and knowledge of human nature. Most likely, your client/stakeholder is a creative type and you are an action-oriented person (as most project managers). Use this cognitive diversity to the advantage of the project and to enrich the relationship with the client. 
  2. Do an inventory to see which ideas require actual actions. Some people are just happy to share their ideas. You might discover that some are visions or lighthouses. Use them in visuals. In full transparency, share your plans for ideas which are for immediate follow-up and which can be parked. 
  3. If your client/stakeholder is restless, then you might need to equip yourself with an expectations management strategy. There are a variety you can employ: explain the time commitment on the team and project – would implementing the new idea require team members to put aside the tasks they are committed to already? would any other new resources be required? etc. Depending on the mind-set of the originator of the idea, they might buy into the ‘costs argument’ . 
  4. Remember that the project’s plan is your anchor and reference point. It is a documented list of current and foreseen priorities. If the priorities keep changing, it is likely that a new steering committee of the project will need to be called upon to discuss and agree on which priorities are for the project to keep. 

Working with a client who is a fountain of new ideas can be stimulating. It can also be frustrating or draining. By applying these strategies you can enhance your ability to leverage ideas into workable solutions and keep the sanity of your mind. 

Trust. Teams. Politics

No matter their lifespan, projects need people to trust each other. I agree with Simon Sinek: “Trust emerges when we have a sense that another person or organisation is driven by things other than their personal gain”.

Members of a project team – be it a NASA project or a local community street cleaning project – need to trust each other. And trust is a feeling. It can be individual or shared. It comes from

– knowing that someone has your back,

– believing that your team mates will deliver on time their part and that you’ll take it from there and move it forward.

– being certain that they will show up.

– having faith that they will tell you in good faith when you make a mistake.

Trust comes slowly and evaporates in the blink of an eye.

Does it mean that when there is trust between members of the team, there is no conflict? Not at all. Pat Lencioni answers it well: “When there is trust, conflict is nothing but the pursuit of truth. Without trust, conflict is just politics”. And no one well-meaning wants politics in projects.

“Corruption in public projects and megaprojects: There is an elephant in the room!” – re-post

As announcements of unprecedented economic responses rolled on, public procurements worked in an emergency regime. Economic relief plans opened the door to opportunities. Opportunities put to test both the business integrity and the integrity of public institutions. International organisations – such as Council of Europe, OECD – started publishing warnings of corruption risks across industries.

I have not managed investments and/or big infrastructure projects yet, although many years ago I was in charge of overseeing a portfolio, which included a number of infrastructure projects. I remember the complexity of those projects and, in consequence, how high maintenance they were. There was no corruption involved, as reported later by auditors. Yet, my state of alert was constantly high. And understandably so. Seven digit invoices, delays, explanations and justifications, demands for additional budget were some of the red flags. Plus, rubber boots and dusty construction sites came in a package.

The article “Corruption in public projects and megaprojects: There is an elephant in the room!” by Giorgio Locatelli, Giacomo Mariani, Tristano Sainati, Marco Greco equips project managers with a number of valuable insights, both at the planning and at the implementation phase. As the executive summary of the article states: “This paper leverages the institutional theory to introduce the concept of “corrupt project context” and, using the case study of Italian high-speed railways, shows “the impact of a corrupt context on megaprojects.”

In addition to that, the article analyses the salient facets of corruption and characteristics of projects which make them more or less prone to corruption. One can use them as red flags. Authors raise an important number of issues, which are to be paid attention to, in particular as the topic of corruption can still appear as highly controversial in some project management contexts, in particular in times of emergencies.

“Corruption in public projects and megaprojects: There is an elephant in the room!” by Giorgio Locatelli, Giacomo Mariani, Tristano Sainati, Marco Greco, published in the International Journal of Project Management, volume 35, Issue 3, April 2017, pages 252-268, available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0263786316301090

The story of a book which saw the light in lockdown

On a bright April day, as I was casually browsing Linkedin for updates, I noticed a post by Peter Taylor:

A month into full lockdown, my brain jump at it with delight. “A legacy-book to be published in 21 days? Phew! Why so long?!” I thought to myself. So, I responded to the challenge and so did 55 other project managers across industries from around the world.

“The Projectless Manager: Inspirational Thoughts from a World of Project Managers” is now on Amazon, both in paperback and for Kindle.

It is dedicated to “A global community of health carers and key workers. Its proceeds go to NHS. The book is, as Peter puts it, “unique ‘in the moment’ and ‘of the moment’ book.”

It was such a by-the-book project by itself: on time, within budget and objective – achieved, all this with members of a tribe who basically only know each other by Linkedin profiles.

I have to mention kids here. Those who know me, know that I am a full-time kids’ advocate. The cover is a result of a challenge for 9 year olds. So, it is also an inter-generational act of contribution and sharing. Kudos to kids!