When you facilitate workshops (or teach, or train, or preach, or….), you have to pull illustrations from wherever you can.
Even a toddler’s bedroom. Let me explain.
People marvel when my wife or I explain how we enforced bedtimes (and wake-up times) with our kids when they were young.
When I explain the simple technique, and the principle behind it (The External Authority), any parents in my Project and Vendor Management workshop start scribbling notes furiously. It may be the most high-impact takeaway in the course!
Here’s what we did – we used THE CLOCK as the authority. When THE CLOCK says it’s 8:00 pm, then it’s bedtime. It’s objective and non-personal, and you can’t argue with Mom and Dad, because the external authority has decreed what the reality must be.
Even better – they weren’t allowed to leave their bedrooms in the morning until THE CLOCK said 7 am.
In this way, we remove any nagging negotiation between parent and child by pointing to something “above” all of us, something that carried with it a sense of inevitability and external authority. How can you argue with the march of time??
(Have young children at home? I know you’re scribbling notes right now!!)
OK – so, what does this have to do with project and vendor management, or any other facet of corporate life?
A great deal.
When projects begin to go off the rails due to miscommunication or scope creep, it’s generally because there hasn’t been a carefully defined and articulated project plan. An agreed-upon project definition, with an agreed-upon process, a defined timeline and budget, and an agreed-upon scope of work.
That project plan is THE CLOCK.
The last thing you want to get into as a project manager is a schoolyard brawl with internal stakeholders or external vendors over what has happened to a going-south-project. The project manager(s) often end up getting the blame in these scenarios. This is prevented is by creating a detailed project plan that everyone consciously agrees to up-front. The plan, and its scope, becomes the external authority, reigning in unauthorized changes and enforcing a level of project discipline on all contributing stakeholders.
Now, it’s not you against them. It’s you and them being accountable to The Plan. Which can only be changed by high-level stakeholders (ultimately) responsible for budget and timing.
You can see how the appeal to an external authority is used all the time in corporate life. Sometimes, with very good effect; other times, as an excuse and evasion of responsibility.
For example – what sounds better: “I’m firing you because I just don’t like you,” or, “According to our manual of company behavior, we’re going to have to let you go because you violated Rule #37b on April 12th.” One of these is strictly personal and can lead to a lawsuit; the other has a whiff of objective inevitability.
Or this: “I tried to herd all the cats, but somehow the project ended up 20% over budget and 3 weeks late,” vs. “The VP of Sales signed off on a change to the original scope in order to include 2 extra videos on August 3rd, which impacted the budget by 20% and pushed back our final deliverable by three weeks.”
Are you involved in managing projects or vendors? Your best friend is detailed definition and up-front agreement. You always want to the clock on your side!
Also on the Impactiviti blog: Tossing Trainers into the Deep End of the Pool