I was talking with a friend the other day. He is working on a renovation project. The team gathered requirements, reviewed options, had a lively discussion (or three), made decisions and then sent the final plans to the architect.
If you’re a PM you know what’s coming…
Yup, 2 days later, one of the team members sent an email to everyone: “I don’t think this is going to work. Here’s what we should do instead…”
I felt so bad for my friend. And I could complete empathize!
It happens all the time on a project, unfortunately.
But why do certain people always seem to sabotage a project? And what can we do to prevent it?
The “why” is pretty easy: we’re human. And being human means we’re subject to frailty and influence…and we don’t always do what we should, even if we know better.
Here are some common reasons for the late entries:
- Shyness. Some people don’t like to speak up. They work up the courage to speak but it’s well after the deadline
- Introversion. As opposed to shyness, these folks may not speak up in a meeting, but need some time to reflect. And they may feel more comfortable writing or meeting 1:1 to discuss
- Power. Let’s face it. Some people – consciously or unconsciously – feel the need to step in and take over. They may believe they have the better answers and it’s “my way or the highway”
- Temperament. This one feels like Power, but it’s more about how they communicate. I know plenty of folks who honestly don’t realize they’re disrupting the very thing they’re trying to accomplish – they think they’re helping by bringing up additional suggestions or solutions, regardless of who they’re stepping on or how much re-work they’re causing
Having these late additions go unchecked can disrupt the project and the good will of the rest of the team. People may even leave the team completely – they refuse to work with the “disrupter”.
And as the Project Manager, if you don’t rein in the late entries your reputation takes a hit, too.
Each case is unique, but given the four common reasons above, there are a few pretty simple ways to minimize the occurrence, or at least the disruption:
- Set up a short meeting with the known disruptor pre-decision meeting. Ask their thoughts and if there are any risks they see. Make sure to bring up these risks during the meeting so they’re addressed
- Set up a meeting with the disruptor post-decision meeting. Ask for feedback again – you can play on the “did we cover it all” angle
- Hedge your bets by giving the decision a “draft”. Give the final decision a buffer period for “new information”. I use this one with requirements. Sometimes we’ll schedule a “soft freeze”, knowing things will come up right after we freeze the requirements – even without a “saboteur” on the team!
- Simply don’t allow it. Politely but firmly tell them it can’t be changed without \approval from the executive team. This one is tough to do unless you’ve planned for it. I always set up a change control process early in the project: process, documentation, decision-making. And make sure everyone is aware of this process throughout the project
Identifying project risks is important, no matter when they are raised. Our goal is always to bring the project forward, with everyone on board. Seeking to understand why a team member gives you a late entry helps lead you to the most appropriate response.