Posts Tagged ‘project execution’

Project Leadership #3: Courage and Stupidity

by Himanshu Jhamb on November 1, 2010

Contrary to the first impression you might have got looking at the title, I am not going to spell out courageous actions and Stupid actions on projects.  That would be too common. My mission is to reflect on my Project Management journey and share valuable insights I have gained from my mistakes (admittedly, more so) & successes in my journey.

In this article, I am going to talk about how being stupid is actually the first step in being courageous.

There are times when you come to a point where you simply have to act out of courage. Any amount of planning, foresight, anticipation or execution skills simply just don’t cut it. You find yourself in a zone where you go on your gut, just because… well! There is no because. You just do it. That is not to say that you (as the picture suggests) start playing Russian roulette with your projects (well, that would be a bit stupid!). Though, if you think about it, you really cannot be courageous and have zero risk of looking stupid, at the same time.

Here are a few circumstances that might sound familiar in the context of this article:

  • You ask what others might term as a “Dumb question”. Yes, it takes courage to ask dumb questions… you are always at risk of looking “Dumb” in front of someone who thinks you should have known the answer.
  • You take a stand for your team in front of your boss… or your boss’s boss, which might mean you disagree with him/her. Yep, very thin line indeed. Cross it and your head might be handed to you on a platter OR you might end up saving your project by being courageous.
  • It might appear stupid to bend the rules a little when it comes to being a little flexible with your team. Think ROI. What seems stupid at first glance, quickly becomes courageous once you think of the trust and loyalty you might end up earning from your team, in return. Sure, you might end up being admonished by the “Powers-to-be”… but sending a bold message that you’ll stand for your team & get their trust in return. You do the math!
  • Asking a lot of questions can occasionally be seen as (and usually is) being stupid. And that is usually a good thing. That’s the first step in being courageous enough to get the answers you need to manage the project.
  • Over-communicating is sometimes termed as being stupid by your own team members. I get that all the time, though, the very next thought that crosses my mind is “Aah! That means at least I have communicated!”  A Zen moment follows.
  • Micro-managing. My personal favorite. Let’s face it – Sometimes, in order to get the project back on track, you have to get into the trenches and steer the way. That’s “Courageous” indeed. Though, you do have to cross the chasm of appearing like you are micro-managing before you can show the doubters and non-believers the other side.

The last one reminds me of the time when I was handed off this project in distress – midway through the project. The customer was feeling just one emotion at that time. Livid. Is that an emotion? Maybe not. But, I digress.Point is, I had an unhappy customer and the reason they cited was that “Nothing was getting done”.

After a bit of digging I realized that because my team member was at the client site (The business world lovingly terms this arrangement as “Staff-Augmentation” or more intimately “Staff-Aug”), he was a victim of poor project management – primarily emanating from the fact that he would be getting his weekly goals from pretty much everyone on the client team while he was eating lunch, walking down the halls or perhaps even in the restroom. No wonder “nothing was getting done”. Once I saddled in, I took care of it by making sure that all traffic to him was routed through me. My involvement obviously meant that my colleague had one more level of indirection added to his work that he had to deal with – ME! His reaction – “Himanshu, you are micro-managing”. We sorted the matter out immediately… fast forward one year – The customer went from “Nothing is getting done” to being a cheery one and investing >$1M over the course of the project.

So, yes, while you are running the project, there will be hurdles along the way that will have “STUPID” written in big bold red letters, on them. You need to have the courage to see them in the eye, acknowledge them and then take that leap of faith to scale them to complete the race you are in.