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Project Management – A Culture of Truth-Telling
By Mandy McGill, Northwest University

As a project manager it is you job to create a culture where truth telling is not only encouraged, it’s rewarded. This requires a paradigm shift since you are biased towards positive feedback. It’s only natural as a PM to want to hear “Yes boss, everything is going swimmingly” accompanied by a big smile. But what if it’s not going swimmingly? What if your IT team is running into glitches it didn’t anticipate? Or your garden planning team lead needs more shoveling hands but is afraid to tell you because he knows you are on a tight budget? These are problems that only can be revealed if you have promoted truth telling.

Now that you have created a truth telling culture, you have the ability to very closely monitor change. Change really is just a balance issue. Somewhere within your project, be it budget, scope, or time can change for any reason and confronting that change head on is your best opportunity to prevent a derail. PM Guru Barry Otterholt recommends finding the deeper problem behind the change by asking why three times. He says it is usually the third “why” that reveals the issue that needs to be dealt with.

Another valuable piece of advice from the guru: if the change comes from the sponsor, do not reply with “no”. Reevaluate your plans, and respond with a “Yes, we can do this, if…” and then lay out your requirements to get it done. Be sure you think through the impact to the project in every way. Does the change affect your team, the budget, both? Remember, if your sponsor wants the change, it’s your job to make it happen. With a smile. You often can succeed with the change by reducing or extending scope, time, or budget. This keeps your sponsor happy, and your team supportive of the change.

It’s important to have a log to track your changes. Not only is this good reference during the project, it is great to look at after your project to help in the planning phases of similar projects in the future.

Four things:

  1. Culture of truth telling
  2. Why x3
  3. Don’t say no
  4. Log your changes

Add these to your project management repertoire and you are sure to succeed.

Northwest University opened to students on October 1, 1934. It is a regionally accredited institution awarding associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees.

Note: Implicit permission was given to republish this post, as the article was not copyrighted.

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