Why You Should Ditch Project Management “Techniques”

Have you ever been accosted by a timeshare salesman? I have. Yes, admittedly you do have a choice of whether or not you want to take a tour of the property and subject yourself to such a sales ‘professional’. But, it is entertaining to watch as they go through every trick in the book to convince you to sign on the dotted line that day.

A number of years ago I took a trip to Cancun, Mexico. I agreed to take a tour of one of the local properties in exchange for a pretty nice tour package. Why not? It was only going to take a couple hours of my time and breakfast was included. What’s not to like? Breakfast was great and the tour of the property was indeed beautiful. Then the entertainment started. Every sales technique that has ever been conceived started coming out including (but not limited to)

  • This property will only cost you [x] amount of dollars per day. Aren’t you worth that much?
  • How much do you spend on vacation each year? This will save you 20% off of what you would normally spend.
  • You need to hurry though! These prices won’t last.
  • You need to hurry though! There are only so many units left.
  • Finally, when the salesperson realized they weren’t getting anywhere with me they called in The Closer who started with “why are you wasting my salesperson’s time? You mean you didn’t come here to buy a time-share” and tried to lay the guilt-trip technique on me.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything. But, the sales techniques that they used can be evidenced in many other high-pressure environments such as selling used cars to infomercials on TV. Most people see right through these and move on to more reputable transactions.

Do You Use Project Management Techniques?

The sales techniques above may sound a bit on the slimy side. But, have you succumbed to doing something similar by using project management techniques? “What?” you may say indignantly. “I would never resort to managing projects that way!” Really? Look at some of the project management techniques below and see if you still feel the same way.

  • False Schedules: This is the grandfather of project management techniques. The old false schedule. You know how this one works. You have a date that something needs to get done. However, you know that your team is notorious for not hitting dates so you create a fictitious date that is a day, week, month or some other slice of time ahead of when it is actually due.This is the date you give your team.

    They all strive to make that date…and, of course, miss it. But, that’s OK because you didn’t give them the real date and now they still have time to get the deliverable complete by the time it’s really due!

  • Carbon Copy their Boss on E-mail: We’ve all seen this project management technique in action. The email starts out… “Dear [firstname]”, I appreciate your efforts on our recent project. However, I just wanted to check in and see what progress you have made on your most recent deliverable. This deliverable is now more than two weeks overdue and you have moved the date two times. Can you please provide me with the final date this will be complete?”The above email is not so bad in and of itself except you went and CC’d the person’s boss. Sure, you’re reasoning is that you wanted to make something happen. And, it will this time except you’ve now created ill-will and contention between your project team member and yourself as their project manager. Plus, their boss is now involved and everything can have the tendency to blow out of proportion. This type of project management technique is sure to create problems.
  • Force Commitments in Front of a Group of Peers: A third project management technique is to push people to commit to a certain date or deliverable in front of their peers. This technique goes something like this…Group planning session, everyone throws out what they can and can’t do to help out the project. There’s a newer person in the room that you need a particular activity done by a certain date.  So, you launch into them with… “C’mon Jeff…that won’t be a problem will it? I know you shouldn’t have a problem in pulling this off. I’ll put you down for two weeks from today. Will that work? Sure it will. Great.” Poor Jeff never saw it coming and like a deer in the headlights sheepishly agrees “sure, that won’t be a problem”.

    It may not be a problem to them, but everyone else in the room (including you) knew they wouldn’t be able to deliver. You’ve backed them into a corner and harass them for the next two weeks to make good on “their word”.

  • Hide Plan B: A fourth project management technique is to hide “Plan B” from your team. Any project manager that is worth their salt always has a Plan B. Most will have Plan C, D and E as well. They always operate under the assumption that something is going to go wrong with their main path and they may need to go with their backup plan. You decide not to let your team in on your now secret Plan B and continue to lead them to believe that if Plan A doesn’t work then the project and everyone associated with it is doomed!

Have you used any of these project management techniques? Most likely you have at some point in your project management career with varied results.

Project Management Techniques Don’t Work

The reason these project management techniques don’t work is the same reason why time-share salesperson techniques don’t work…people can see right through them. You are setting yourself up for long-term failure if you try these project management techniques on your team.

It undermines trust, everyone can figure out what you are doing and in the long-term, it will create resentment that you are not being entirely transparent with your project team.

An Alternative to Project Management Techniques

An alternative to project management techniques is to focus on the spirit of project management. What is the spirit of project management? Your goal is to get every project you work on completed on-time, under-budget and within scope. You need to do this in a respectful and open way in order for your team to trust you and provide you with the best they can offer. You do this by being:

  • Honest: Effective project management builds shared an understanding of goals and expected outcomes. Have enough respect for your team to tell them the truth. Tell them the truth about the dates. Tell them the truth about Plan B that is in your back pocket. Tell them the truth that it is critically important that the project gets done within the time specified. Treat them with this type of respect and you’ll soon find that your team will step up to the plate and hit a home run every time.
  • Collaborate: Effective project management requires project managers to work closely with the project team in the spirit of overcoming obstacles and challenges.  Your team will appreciate the freedom to offer feedback and provide. Through collaboration, you can discover improved solutions to problems that may be stifling the project.
  • Transparent: Effective project management requires ongoing communication. Always let your team know what is going on. If there is a change in the schedule that allows for a bit more time to finish something or if there is a very real concern that the failure of this project could have serious repercussions, let them know. Effective project management requires your team to trust you and so they need to know that you are not holding back anything from them that will help them do their job to the best of their ability.

You’re not a time-share salesperson. You’re a project manager. Ditch the project management techniques. Your team will respect you more and you’ll be that much more effective as a project manager.

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