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Dismissal, Denial and Disbelief – Wrapup

For earlier parts of this post read : Part 1 – Dismissal, Part 2 – Denial and Part 3 – Disbelief

A key question for those leading technology projects is; how do we prevent the Senior Management team from falling into the “Dismissal, Denial and Disbelief” trap? Given the hierarchical structure in most organizations, that is not always easy to do. There are, however strategies that Project Managers can use to build better relationships with Senior Management to help prevent this very dangerous pattern of events from running out of control.

Many of those strategies require the Project Manager to take on something of an educational role. Senior Managers often lack the direct experience of large scale technology projects and hence underestimate the risks involved. The trick for Project Managers is finding ways to educate Senior Management without directly challenging their seniority, experience or authority. Among the techniques for surreptitiously educating management;

  1. Ensure a very clear risk reduction strategy is developed and when presenting the plans to the senior management team use the opportunity to show industry data documenting how often technology projects fail
  2. Ensure all dissenting voices in the project team are heard and treat those concerns as a project risks. Include those risks in the overall risk reduction strategy and presentations to Senior Management
  3. Continually use language that reinforces the risks the organization is taking and resist pressure to use language that downplays realities
  4. Encourage Senior Managers to allow schemes that give voice to concerns from lower down in the organization hierarchy (such as open Wiki’s, suggestion/concern boxes, etc) so that the voice of the real experts can reach the highest levels of the organization
  5. Build up you own expertise so that you become a respected partner to the management team rather than just a person to whom they delegate work.

Only once trust has been established and Senior Managers are open to discussion, can the typical risk reduction strategies (such as dividing the project into smaller phases, using proof of concepts, etc) be used to their full. However, if the Senior Management team persists in using dismissal and denial tactics my advice remains the same, continue delivering the same messages and resist the temptation to cave in. Providing professional services often involves delivering news that people do not want to hear. That unfortunately is however a part of the role.

As a final recommendation on the subject, find ways to build in graceful mechanisms that allow Senior Managers to change their minds without losing face. It may just be the smartest thing you can do.

1 Comment on “Dismissal, Denial and Disbelief – Wrapup”

  1. #1 Mike McIntosh
    on Sep 9th, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Rob,
    I’ve just read your four articles. They make sense and are insightful.

    My question–do you have examples of companies who recognized the dilemma they were in and performed a “reset” that addressed the root causes, that then went on to success?