DPM School: Week 6 – Managing Projects

When your project goes off the rails, change requests can help get you back on track.

By Profit Idowu

On December 14, 2019
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Managing Projects and Encountering the Resistance
Why is it so difficult to say or do what we want to do?

“We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don’t read that book the boss lent us. Or as Steven Pressfield describes it, the resistance. The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer’s block and putting jitters in every project that ever shipped late because people couldn’t stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.” — Seth Godin

Since encountering this quote years ago, it’s stuck to me like concrete. I even take it into college classrooms when I’m asked to speak. I see it everywhere and it’s something you can’t unsee. Looking back on Week 6 of The Digitial Project Manager School, what Ben and his team were trying to tease out with this week to me is found in the word “Resistance,” but also what to do to come up against it. By having a few weeks of a project progressively build, Ben places us in a scenario where our project goes off the rails and how to deal with those project challenges. What to do and also how to get back on track with difficult conversations. The week closed out with a few tips on negotiation and how to close out projects well.

Understanding How to Shift Well and Who Shifts When?
What would you do if you received an email like this with your project going full tilt?

Hey,

I’ll get to brass tacks here – I’ve just got back from maternity leave and it seems like our project – which was going beyond fine before I left – has taken a bad turn.

Our team has had a chance to review the (supposed) final designs three times already and I’ve got to be honest, we were all a bit surprised and disappointed. Your team is not listening to our feedback and just don’t seem to get it. The design still doesn’t feel right.

So here’s where we’re at – the CEO now wants to pull the entire project and is threatening to go to the CFO to kill the entire project budget. We might have to revisit our agency contract after this project because he doesn’t think you guys get the brand or what we’re trying to do here. We’re a very visual brand and the designs you’ve presented feel like you’re trying to turn us into a 90’s version of Netscape Explorer. Where do we go from here? How can you make this right?

Does panic set in first or would you be able to confidently rally the team to see this project through to the end? The resistance we encountered with Week 6’s prompt had our class prepare for a difficult conversation like this with our hypothetical client. Preparing options for resolving the situation, explaining what the best option would be, and why. The form this resolution would come in was a Change Request which served as an update to our Statement of Work submitted in Week 5.

The solutions I came up with enabled my team in this scenario to a) complete the project, b) get paid for the work going forward, and c) retain the long-term relationship with the client. Here were a few highlights from the project itself.

Adjustments to Sprint — 2 Tasks Listed in Project Backlog

Billing Adjustments included in Change Request

Slack Chatter: Why Projects Fail
In this week’s video lesson, Ben mentions 4 main problem areas for why projects fail. People, cost, time, and quality. As a follow-up to this area of study in our slack channel, Alyson posed the question, “In your opinion, what’s the hardest one you find to manage? And why?” In my opinion, it’s always “people.” The cost, time, and quality at certain points with a team, client, or project are negotiable. People are 1-of-1 and you can’t treat every human the same.

A triage protocol could be implemented when one of these problem areas escalates from not urgent to needing continuous monitoring, but identifying what to tackle first is always a point of contention. The tactics, conversation, needs allocation, and hand-holding will always be different. Some business leaders that solely focus on the project, throw people by the wayside. Disregarding their most valuable resource to the point where the least on the org chart is invisible. Beholden to their work product only. Your people are not hiding or invisible. They’re right there in plain sight. As a leader, the question becomes, “Do you see them?” If your approach to people is faulty, your projects will never have the life, fullness, and necessary depth needed to make “breakthrough” work. Take care of your people (clients included) and good work will follow.

Recommended Reading & Resources of the Week

A Quick “Shout Out” and Last Week in Session with The DPM School

(Thanks DPM Team for including me in the “Masterminds” section on your website. Way to show a little student love!)

Next week is the last week of the Digital Project Manager School for the year. My post will be briefly covering what’s brought up in Week 7: Project Leadership, but more importantly I’ll take a bit of a deep dive into a bigger question many people might have about The Digital Project Manager School itself despite its impressive stats:

  • 120% audience growth since 2018.
  • 10% average audience growth/month.
  • 200,000+ page views/month.
  • 30,000+ newsletter subscribers.
  • 3,000+ community members on Slack.

Is the Digital Project Manager School worth it?