Erasing the Author

One thing that I like about managing is that the project list gets pretty short. Recently, I had only two large projects to manage, both of which were largely run by outside consultants. Besides these, I had only to manage the team. Of course, if any team members bailed out or their projects derailed, I had to pick up the pieces. My point is that the daily checklist contains a fairly small number of items, each of which is quite large in scope.

At times, I have found that large projects in my jurisdiction have been questioned by others. A jealous manager from another group might say backhandedly, “What is that controversial project you’re working on?” Or, “What are you working on? Isn’t that your special pet project?” (Innocent questions are one thing, but a full-on assault could follow!) In order to defend important projects from attack, they need to be constantly defined as originating from the owners or the principals of the firm. I have always managed to get sign-off and buy-in from the top for new marketing initiatives, but sometimes that still isn’t enough. The project might last a year, and the selling process might be required for the whole time. There are three points to consider when creating the message about a new or controversial project: the desired outcome, the progress metrics, and the lasting value.

A project to launch a new database might have been brilliantly assembled by an upstart manager, but the origin, the need, surely came from an objective of senior leadership — i.e. to have better access to customer and project data. That leader should have identified the measure of success or metrics of progress, namely, how the firm will measure that the database is improving the practice. And finally, that leader or leaders should have indicated the value and the impact of the project. This database is worth x to us. These leaders’ names should be attached to your plan. You can even add names as the project grows in acceptability. But one name that should be minimized is your own.

To sell a plan internally, recognize the ongoing process of messaging and consider erasing yourself as author of the plan.


(With appreciation for the work of Scott Berkun and Alan Weiss.)

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