Posts Tagged ‘ownership’

Save Energy, be on the Offensive

by Guy Ralfe on March 17, 2010

In rugby there is a saying “it is easy to play well behind a winning pack”. For those that are not familiar with the game in each side there are 15 players of which 8 of them, “the pack”, work to maintain the possession of the ball and create space for the running backs to break through the oppositions defenses. One of the facts of sports, is that it consumes far more energy defending your position than it takes to continually attack your opposition.

I observed a situation recently on a project, that demonstrated this exact same principle. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise as projects are a team sport in  a way just competing against the opposition of time, resources and money. The project I observed had slipped somewhat over time and now that the final delivery was more firmly set in sight, it was apparent that not all could be delivered by the required delivery date.

The delivery date was fixed, but how the project and product managers presented the situation to the stakeholders was that if they wanted to meet the date they would have to forfeit some functionality requests. The stakeholders did not like the position as they had already settled on the bare bones delivery, as the project had consumed all available slack to the current point. Naturally this placed the stakeholders in a difficult position.

What seems to get lost in this play is that now the direction and decision capability is placed 100% in the stakeholders hands. Another key point is that the project had originally committed to delivering the functionality as part of the original scope, but now it is seen as a type of “scope creep” or “nice to have” and must be relinquished. Clever positioning by the project and product managers.

What I was also fortunate enough to witness is the behavior of the teams supporting this project. Because the project manager had lost control of the project over time, the project manager role turns into this ongoing defense of the current status and a slow ongoing erosion of deliverables. Like playing behind a losing pack in any sport, defending your situation on a project consumes time and energy – think of all the ancillary requests to your team members to test things out and provide feedback on how long xyz will take for the next project meeting. All this activity consumes rather than producing for the project and the situation just continues to get worse over time.

As a Project Manager you have to take charge and be the one to declare the future of the project with the support of the stakeholders. Don’t quit on the original commitment, rather try and declare what can be done for the delivery date and plan to make good on the original promise. This way you are in the driving seat and your team will feel compelled and motivated to play your game in the offense.

Don’t be on the defense, it will wear your team out – take charge and lead the offense to capitalize on the effort you have available. It is essential the project manager,” the pack”, is leading the way and creating opportunity for the team not stifling it with indecision.