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Handling a first meeting with the 'go faster' big boss

Thought I d get the Forums thoughts and use this as a case study as its a common PD moment .

New job. Few days in I have to to present an overspend additional funding request to an executive who is known for stress testing any new Project Manager. Landscape looks like a lot of cooks in the kitchen.

The Change Request is OK we re not increasing overall spend just bringing activity forward to respond to Exec wanting faster delivery. Project is moving OK just gone from green to amber on this CR.

I m hoping we can discuss how best to position this. It's all about securing aircover so they let me do my job.

My initial thinking is: - start positive give them summary of all the recent goals we have kicked

  • say yes to go faster and that would mean accepting this risk. E.g. if we work on IT architecture before picking technology vendor risk of re-work. If it's really stupid I will just raise so many risks that any Exec would get it.
  • anytime they play the Exec card and bully me say yes of course Mr Exec and to make sure we re focusing on your priorities I will report back as soon as we have any data on that. And write up it was directed and use wriggly language like, working towards, challenging the team, running experiment etc.

And of course put it all in writing and CC the world

The risks of this meeting I need to mitigate are:

  • get trapped into unrealistic deadlines
  • Not enough  power protecting, push back too much and Exec goes me
  • set precedent that Exec is managing project instead of governing.  They are meant to have oversight not stick their fingers in the pie
  • I don't sound 'can do' enough and other players puff up and try and grab some control to score points with exec 'the hero on the white horse' riding in to save the project
Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and Mehdi ELK have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanMehdi ELK

Hello Transitioned,

tough one! Here are my thoughts:

Since it’s a new job, trust is key. I understand his expectations and it’s important to adhere to them. Personnally I would prioritize showing reliability, loyalty, warmth, being a good follower and being a doer over speed.

The reason is that if you overpromise well you know… also if you go 110% at the beginning there is the risk of exhaustion.

So I would stick to what you know you can accomplish in the time given with a “we’ll do our best to go faster”. I would still prioritize quality as you know better than him what is important and required.

I would trust my experience in knowing what the project requires. I would also avoid getting into a “fuck you nah fuck you deadlock” (cf Ozziemanreviews) also known as ego battle with note taking during the meeting, no dominant BL, lots of nods, active listening, rephrasing if you’re not sure you understood the explanations. I would go full beta as Lucio described. Show that you’re a doer that you can do BUT that you’re a follower.

I hope this helps. Available for continuing this  conversation of course…

Lucio Buffalmano and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoTransitioned

Thanks John.  I agree.  My boss doesn't like us getting pushed but I think the first meeting her primary concern will be to show respect and get a 'ticket to play'.

Lucio Buffalmano and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn Freeman

This sounds to me like a well-thought plan.

The only two things that made me think to add a comment would be:

  • anytime they play the Exec card and bully me say yes of course Mr Exec: yes, great to "align and redirect", just making sure that while you do that you also show enough confidence/power so that you don't make an enemy but also gain his respect (but you know that)
  • And of course put it all in writing and CC the world: I'd personally be careful with this if he is the #1 power player of this program/project. If he is, then he's also the main guy to keep happy and if you don't warn him first he may see it as a power move and don't like it. So I'd flag that before. For example: "cool, I'll put that in writing and are you cool if we share it with all the stakeholders so we're all on the same page?"
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John FreemanTransitioned
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I would even call this strategy: the "Yes Sir!" Strategy or the "good soldier" strategy.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.

Thanks both, great points.

On the putting it in writing I can probably use the format of project meetings to make that sound like administrivia for project record keeping.

Normally projects have a decisions and actions doc.  And the PM will recap points at the end of the meeting for those notes.

So you make big boss decision sound like best thing since sliced bread and raise a risk because unless the PM makes them, nobody ever looks at the risks.  And then once it's old news in a later meeting you pop in a risk review.

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John Freeman
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