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This is a repost from the same day a year ago. All of these still apply.

1. It is best not to share the project plan with the project team as it leads to unnecessary and usually incredibly stupid questions.

2. Mandate that team members submit task duration estimates as precisely as possible: two decimal digits (e.g. 17.36 days) are usually sufficient but some projects may require three digits.

3. Strive to disperse project team over multiple locations: it greatly reduces the time people waste mindlessly chattering with each other.

4. In this economy, everyone ought to be able to work harder. Schedule tasks based on 10-hour days.

5. Involve the Steering Committee in day-to-day running of the project. They will tell you how much they like it.

6. When briefing the Steering Committee, it’s a good idea to declare all nearly completed tasks as completed. Ninety per cent is awfully close to 100 per cent and the Committee Members will feel encouraged.

7. Try to surprise your Project Sponsor every now and then. Rescheduling the implementation date, firing half of the team or changing the vendor half-way through should all be considered.

8. Status updates clutter mailboxes, so avoid them.

9. Get rid of those team members who disagree with you. You are in charge of a critical project and the last thing you want around is some worm questioning your decisions.

10. Don’t waste any time trying to understand the business domain. It is unimportant and is not your job.

11. A list of typical project risks can be easily obtained on the Internet. Don’t waste precious time developing it; this is merely a formality.

12. Act professionally: don’t engage in unrelated conversations with your staff and certainly avoid socializing with them. It is important to maintain a distance.

13. Information Technology is an exact, predictable field. If your programmers cannot write code without any defects, replace them.

14. To speed up negotiations with vendors, just sign their canned contracts.

15. Details are unimportant; the job of the project manager is the overall supervision.

16. Once the scope of the project is determined, ensure that it is impossible to change it.

17. A lot of people may claim to be project stakeholders. Feel free to ignore those you don’t like.

18. Encourage team members to decide for themselves what their tasks should be.

19. The best way to gauge the skill of a fellow project manager is to ask them about the largest project budget they’ve ever been responsible for.

20. Plan to release the project team on the day of implementation, to save money.

21. (Bonus) Forget that it’s April Fools’ Day and start typing an angry letter to the Editor. Remember that it’s April Fools’ Day when you’re on the third page of it!

A week ago, I spoke at a Project Management Institute event in Toronto, in front of a room full of project management professionals. The talk was about the key success factors in communicating with executives, a topic that has proven highly popular. I shared the top management perspective gathered during my consulting work.

It is because of the strong response I have received that I am going to outline the key points from the speech here. Whether or not you are a project manager, I believe you will find them useful.

Twelve suggestions that will make your communication with senior executives successful.

1. Speak your audience’s language. Minimize the use of professional jargon. Describe impact, benefits, ramifications, costs, etc in business terms. Don’t confuse this with “dumbing down”, which is unacceptable.

2. Prepare for the opportunity which will come as one of the following three types of scenarios .

  • You bump into them in the elevator or on the floor – 30 seconds
  • They want to know a little bit more – 5 minutes
  • They want a full blown conversation – 30 minutes

On your way to work every day, think of what you could say if the scenario were to materialize. Come up with a message that is pithy, assertive and upbeat. The full blown conversation rarely comes as a surprise, so you will probably have the time to prepare, but it is not the case for the first two scenarios.

3. Understand the priorities, pressure points, and political landscape. Do not confuse what is said with what is thought.

4. Communicate confidently and establish a partner relationship. Your counterparty is not omnipotent and you don’t want to appear as an obsequious supplicant but as a confident, knowledgeable and reliable partner.

5. Do not let them tell you how to do your job.

6. There are several types of power that an individual can hold within the organization, such as legitimate, reward, coercive, referent and expert. The last two are most potent. Know a lot about your project – be on top of things, know everything there is to know about your project. If you don’t, people will go around you.

7. Don’t merely bring up issues. Suggest solutions, give options but imply freedom to choose. Be a solution, not a problem.

8. Geert Hofstede developed a framework for assessment of world’s cultures. Among the five dimensions comprising it is the Power Distance Index (PDI), which denotes how the less powerful members of organizations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. In Australia, a low PDI country, subordinates view their superiors as equals. In Malaysia, a high PDI country, the superior is looked at as an authority not to be argued with. While it is dangerous to stereotype, understanding the prevailing beliefs within a given culture allows you to communicate with executives with different backgrounds more effectively.

9. Always get an agreement on next steps, responsibilities and timing. You will not be able to be in control unless these are set.

10. Know when to escalate. Too early and you may be talking about something which should have been addressed at your level; too late and the opportunity to rectify the problem may be forever gone.

11. Decide on the communication medium based on the executive’s personality, preferences, proximity, as well as the time constraints.

12. Choose the right level of detail in your message given the professional realm and the preferences of your counterparty. A CFO is likely to pay close attention to numbers, while a CEO may prefer to stay at a high level (but remember not to stereotype). It is always safe to start at 30,000 feet being prepared to quickly descend into the nitty-gritty. Have the numbers and other detailed info ready in your back pocket.

Here is a good example of leadership found today in a professional organization.

Lakeshore Chapter of the Project Management Institute, held its annual symposium on June 6, 2009. Despite the perceived economic hardship, persistent marketing efforts ensured turnout of some 300 participants. The event was held at a brand new facility with all amenities one would expect. Takeouts for participants and speakers were of high quality and so was the catering. It was the way a professional development event should be: high quality, a lot of value for the members, and memorable. My congratulations to those who made it happed.

I spoke there on successful communication with executives as the first session following the keynote. The room became packed quickly and there were people sitting on the floor and standing in the back (do I have a following?). It was a success and, as some later suggested, a highlight of the day. For me, such opportunities are always an uplifting experience. It feels good to share, educate and empower, to give back to the profession.

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