August 27, 2009

Brief tip 9: Ensure buy-in and reconfirm along the way

Wow, a new post not that long after the previous. Another brief tip coming up, which is is simply going to be worded like this:

Make sure that you have buy-in on all relevant levels, and reconfirm this as the project moves on

The first part might be too self-evident, but make a mental note of the second part. It is in fact easy to forget this in the spur of the moment, and a project can often be nothing but a long sequence of hectic moments. Taking the time to involve key stakeholders, getting their opinions and buy-in (adjusting the course as required) will give you back the effort tenfold later – which may in turn contribute to more control of the hectic moments later in the project...

I think the tip is relevant on both a team level and an executive level. On the executive level, you might find yourself trying to mitigate different and conflicting interests. When this is not feasible, you hopefully have set up escalation mechanisms to get to a decision and move forward. This process also ties closely back to the second PM brief tip of managing expectations closely.

On a team level, reconfirming tasks, responsibilities and estimates are all important. This will also be a self-reinforcing loop, as team members tend to take on more responsibility when given the trust. Of course, you will have to work hard to create a context where the likelihood of succeeding give OK odds – if not the responsibility will be more like Scott Adams demonstrates for Dilbert as shown below:

I also think the principle of reconfirmation and no surprises can be used to contradict what some people seem to think about “that great final presentation of the project”: My take is that there is absolutely no point in such a “big bang" final presentation aimed at impressing and surprising the audience (often CxO-level). Share your thoughts (and software, if your project is developing any) early as much as possible, refine them along the way and deliver the final presentation knowing that the message will be understood.


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