No time for laziness yet

Typically when a project manager arrives at the start of a brand shiny new project then they will enter a point in time that is full of peace and love and general wellbeing between all parties involved. The sales cycle will be out of the way, if external suppliers are involved, the celebration parties will still be fond memories with people enthusiastically sharing embarrassing photographs on intranet sites, and everyone will believe that this is going to be a fantastic success with riches for all involved just around the corner. This project will be different from all the other projects.

Chaos reports will be relegated to waste bins and the world will be a smiley happy one with optimism abounding.

But we all know the reality of project history and the typical phases that projects experience:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Total Confusion
  • Disillusionment
  • Search for the Guilty
  • Punishment of the Innocent
  • Reward and Promotion of the Non-participants

Obviously you want to avoid this scenario; you want to be a success. Therefore this is not a time for the project manager to indulge in laziness, this will come later. No, for now this is a time when the project manager will be busy and visible and will stamp their authority on the project right from the very first moment, the very first phone call, the very first meeting, and the very first time they step in to the project office.

It is at this point that the project can be won or lost for a project manager because it is now, and only now, that they will have to opportunity to drive and structure the project the way they want to.

It is important to let everyone know that you have arrived and that you demand that things are done your way, the right way, the way that is best for the project. Equally it is important that you educate your project team on why this is required and what the benefits are that can be achieved by working your way – for them, for you and for the project.

Productive laziness will follow, but for now take control and work hard. Now you need to understand exactly what you have taken on, or landed with if this project was not actively selected by you. Now you need information and you will have many questions to ask and many answers to uncover.

And one word of warning before we start, there is a project management ‘law’ that says ‘Attempts to get answers early in a project fail as there are many more wrong questions than right ones. Activity during the early stages should be dedicated to finding the correct questions. Once the correct questions have been identified correct answers will naturally fall out of subsequent work without grief or excitement and there will be understanding of what the project is meant to achieve’. This is known as Hoggarth’s Law.

Wise words indeed, I think Hoggarth had the makings of a lazy project manager. Do not waste time – be productive, but in ‘lazy’ way.