Rule 5: Educate as Well as Inform
During the more than 25 years we have been involved in project management education and consulting, we are constantly amazed by the lack of project management education and support offered to senior business executives. However, on many occasions, we have been asked to present seminars and tutorials to very senior business people. In conducting these senior executive seminars , we have learned a powerful insight: The majority of senior business executives do not understand projects or project management!
As discussed in Chapter 4, there are two distinct categories of work in all organizations.
The first is process work. This work is "business as usual" and has the following attributes:
This type of work is found in factories, offices, restaurants , airlines, construction, hospitals , banks, and so on. We estimate that between 70% and 80% of all work belongs in this category.
The second category of work is project work, which is the exact opposite of process work. It is designed to change "business as usual" and has the following attributes:
This work is found in all organizations but, in most organizations, it is clustered in groups such as marketing, IT, research, policy, and other specialized groups. We estimate that, for most typical organizations, this work is around 20% to 30% of all effort.
It would be typical for your sponsor to have worked for many years in process work, not project work cultures. As a result, he or she is simply poorly informed on the dynamics of projects. More important, your sponsor is also not sure of his or her roles and responsibilities as a sponsor.
This insight explains much of the frustration that project managers experience with their sponsors.
For example, in a process culture, it is an accepted belief that great leaders empower and delegate. Indeed, it is the nature of process work that it operates in a machine-like and predictable fashion so the executive can generally leave the day-to-day operations to his or her people and focus on strategic issues. Given this, it would seem natural and normal for the same executives to also delegate many of the critical decisions for their projects to their project managers.
As a result, the behaviors described in Rules 1 and 2 are not the result of stupidity or simple-mindedness, but rather, the result of poor executive education and support.
Therefore, as a project manager, one of your key roles is that of educating your business stakeholders and sponsor on the nature of project work.
For example, you are planning to present a complex project risk assessment report to your sponsor that shows that the sponsor's project is facing potential failure (remember Rule 2). As we'll discuss later, you might make the assumption that the sponsor understands project risk assessment. However, it is a useful strategy to spend some time with your sponsor explaining the difference between business risk (which he or she should be aware of) and project risk before you show him or her the project risk assessment. If you can't get time with your sponsor send him or her a small summary of project risk assessment.