More on bridging the PM/Executive communications gap

I hope I didn’t scare you off the latest PM Network (September 2009) with my recent lament about a column (my lament is here).  The piece assumed that we still needed to convince PMs that they had to be business savvy. 

In fact, this issue is chock full of articles that assume PMs get that and want to get savvier.  One piece — Talking the Talk — hits on a number of recent Crossderry themes.  It echoes an earlier post about bridging the PM/Management Gap (here), but it speaks to the executive who wants to improve his/her communications with project managers.  The opening grafs hit the main challenge:

To the executive ear, project managers seem to be speaking an entirely different language.  “A lot of executives think project management is all Gantt charts and paperwork, so they tune those conversations out,” says Eric Morfin, partner, Critical Skills Inc., San Diego, California, USA 

My suggestion: take this article and use it to shape your exchanges with executives.  If you have a executive mentor,  “how to leverage these ideas” would make a great subject for your next chat.

Mis-using Management by Exception

Mike Chitty’s post on “Whack a Mole Management” (here) prompted me to think about how I position and coach on management by exception.

Whack-a-mole is an arcade game in which you try to hit ‘moles’ that pop up randomly on a board using a rubber mallet….  Whack-a-mole management is based on the same principles.  The challenges are the ‘moles’. As each challenge presents itself to managers, they hit it hard and fast with the hammer of position and conventional wisdom.  It’s exhausting, but fun.

Management by exception can quickly turn into “whack-a-mole” management.  Many inexperienced managers fall into the trap of thinking that MBE means only working issues, when it is really a principle for empowering line managers.  This article is a few years old, but I like the way it summarizes the approach (here), especially these five tips for avoiding the pitfalls of MBE:

  1. Combine MBE with MBWA (management by walking around).
  2. Clarify the level of authority for each newly delegated responsibility. Level A might be, “Do it. You don’t have to tell anyone.’ Level B, “Do it. Then let me know about it.’ Level C, “Do it only after checking with me.’
  3. Make sure lower-level managers are comfortable with their expanded authority. Review policies, practices, and procedures.
  4. Enlarge the definition of “exceptions’ to include favorable variances that should be reported to higher management.
  5. Use coaching and guidelines to encourage those who have received new authority. Higher management should show patience when they goof and express appreciation for their successes.
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