Monday, November 27, 2006


Project Managers vs. Executives - Part 3


What do the Dumb-dumbs in the executive offices know?

In the first two parts of this series, we learned how to decide which executive to start building a relationship with, and what we need to do in order to advocate project management processes in our company. In this final part of the series, we'll talk about a very important, but often overlooked, part of the advocacy process - when to advocate.

Part 3: When

After you've done all your homework and learned about selling, it's time to start working.

As with any communication between people, timing is important.

Choose a time to talk with your executive when a project has succeeded in a way that the executive can appreciate.

The worst time to talk with an executive is when a project has failed, or is on the road to failure.

Even when a project is proceeding well, there's no proof for your pudding.

Be careful to understand the executive's timing as well. Just after layoffs are announced is probably not a good time. Wait for a few days - or until the assistant lets you know that it's okay.

Choose a time to talk when you won't be interrupted. It's often a good idea to get out of the office - lunch, coffee, dinner, or some other place where the two of you can talk openly.

Because you've gotten to know a bit about this executive, you'll know how much small talk he/she wants. Many executives want to get to the point quickly - even at dinner.


We've talked about the who, what, and when of talking with executives about the value of project management practices.

Be picky about who you talk with. Choose with care.

Build a relationship with that executive. Base your talks on the benefits that project management practices will bring to the strategy that the executive has.

Choose your times to talk very carefully. Make sure you're both ready to talk, and go somewhere that limits interruptions.

This is only the starting point. There's so much involved - people skills, communication skills, strategic thinking - that it takes time.

There are two main points:

1. Build a one-to-one relationship with the executive
2. Talk with one executive at a time

Until next time . . .


Project Managers vs. Executives - Part 2


What do the Dumb-dumbs in the executive offices know?

In part 1 we learned how to decide which executive to start building a relationship with. In this part of the three-part series, we'll learn the beginning steps about what to do next.

Part 2: What

Selling is NOT evil.

Here are a couple of definitions that I prefer.
Sell - to persuade another to recognize the worth or desirability of something
Sell - to cause to be accepted; advocate successfully

American Heritage Dictionary

Besides thinking of ourselves as advocates, we're also teachers. Whether we want to or not, as project managers we teach people about project expectations every day. They come to expect success, or failure, based on what we deliver.

When we consistently deliver successful projects, it's much easier to advocate the process.

Learn how to sell. Read books, take classes, talk with salespeople. There are many sales techniques - and some are not relevant to what we do. I've found that techniques that use relationship building work best for this type of sale.

Then translate the word "sell" to "teach" or "advocate."

We don't convince other people of anything - they convince themselves. We supply the information for them to do that.

The best information to give them is the benefits of project practices. Answer this question: What will they get?

Be careful here and really study this point. Benefits are not features. A feature would be the project schedule. A benefit would be opening a new market.

Next time, we'll talk about when to sell project management practices.

Until then . . .


Project Managers vs. Executives


What do the Dumb-dumbs in the executive offices know?

As project managers, we know that the processes we use are valuable. We want to help our companies to succeed. It makes sense to us that using project management throughout the company will lead to success.

No brainer, right?


Executives see projects as operational processes, and not part of a successful business strategy. Which means that they see project managers as staff people, not executive managers.

How do we do that?

As project managers, we need to learn more about the business of our companies. Do you know your company's business plan? Marketing plan? Sales plan?

In this three-part post, I'm presenting some ideas on how to get started talking with executives about the value of project management practices. We'll talk about the who, what, and when.

Part 1: Who

I mentioned that executives view projects as operations, not strategy. That's the key to unlocking the mystery of executive support.

As project managers, we understand the strategy that we use to manage a project. We also know to break that strategy down into tactics.

Just like a project plan maps out the project strategy, the business plan maps out the company's strategy.

In a project the communications plan and risk management plan are tactical support for the project plan. It makes sense that the marketing plan and sales plan are tactical support for the business plan in a company.

Knowing the strategy, as well as the tactical details, allows us to see our goal before we get there. It's the same in running a business.

Executives deal with the strategy of the business, and their direct reports deal with the tactical details.

So when you want to talk with an executive, remember that strategic solutions are their only interest.

So how do we find out about the company's strategy?

Do the research and read the plans. It may take some relationship building with people in marketing and sales in order to get access to the plans. There are many advantages to having these relationships - but that's another subject.

Find out more information about the various executives in your company. Does any one of them have a project management background? Do they come out of an industry that views project management as a core competency?

Choose the person who you find you have the most in common with. When building any type of relationship, people are more comfortable when they can bond at some level.

One of the criteria for choosing an executive is how likely that person is to be open about his/her concerns.

How do you find that out? By talking with other people in your company. Figure out who knows the most about the people at your company. You may need to start talking with people outside of your own department.

One of the things that I learned in the Navy is to always treat the commanding officer's secretary, the finance person, and at least one corpsman with great respect. These people can make, or break, your career.

The CO's secretary can help out in many, many ways - from information to head's up notification to scheduling time with the CO.

The finance person keeps your payroll records and authorizes your pay check. That's someone to keep happy.

The corpsman maintains your medical records - including your shot records - and can make your transfers a living hell. Don't make that person angry.

It's the same in companies. If your executives have assistants - whether it's an admin assistant, executive assistant, or personal assistant - those are the people who know the most. Build a relationship with them.

When you've learned about the company's strategy and chosen an executive to talk with, then you're ready to begin the sales process. That's the What.

Until next time . . .

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Prefer talking to a brick wall than an executive?

Would you rather talk to a brick wall than an executive at your company? Do you wonder why executives don't have time to talk about project management? Then this call's for you!

I'll be participating in a conference call hosted by PM Lessons Learned (Henry Will is the founder). Here are the details:

Thursday Nov. 16, 2007, at 9PM (EST/NYC)

"Tips from a PM who's also an ex-executive: How to talk with executives about the value of PM practices" - Diana Lindstrom, PMP (that's me!)

For the phone number and access code, go to

Just in case the link doesn't work, here's the info:
Conference Dial-in: (712) 432-6060
Access Code: 424424#

I'm looking forward to speaking with you then.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Leadership - Do followers choose leaders?

In September, I heard Billy Jean King (US tennis player; instrumental in getting laws passed to provide equal opportunities for female sports in high school and college (aka Title 9)) talking about leadership.

She said that followers choose leaders. Not the other way around.

What do you think?