Tuesday, 12 April 2011 14:19

It’s Time to Take the “Naked” Approach to Project Management

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Kupe_April11Every now and then a book comes along that rocks my world.  Last week was one of those moments. I’m starting to sound like Oprah!  Although the book was not specifically written for Project Management professionals, it applies 100%.  The book, Getting Naked (1) written by Patrick Lencioni.  Most of my writing is about ways to become or stay a desired a business analysis professional.  These concepts also apply to project management.  If you want to take a leap forward in becoming desired read this book.  If I have not convinced you to buy the book yet keep reading. 

In Getting Naked Mr. Lencioni explains the approach, ‘naked consulting’, he and his team developed and practice in their management consulting firm.  The approach was designed to ensure client trust and loyalty.  In the book he explains the model around three fears that most of us live with.

  1. Fear of Losing the Business - Worrying about losing a client's business may cause service providers and consultants to avoid the very things that ultimately engender trust and loyalty.
  2. Fear of Being Embarrassed - Rooted in pride, this fear can lead service providers to withhold their best ideas from clients.
  3. Fear of Feeling Inferior - To avoid feeling irrelevant or being overlooked, consultants try to achieve and preserve a high level of importance in clients' minds.

By shedding these fears Mr. Lencioni has found that his clients are more trusting of him and his firm, more loyal, and best of all willing to recommend his company to peers at other companies. Here is a summary shared by the author on his website:

“We find that clients are more interested in candor, modesty and transparency than they are in confidence, authority and perfection.  That's not to say that competence is irrelevant; clients need to know that we have the knowledge and experience to help them.  But once we've reached that level, the best way to differentiate ourselves from competition - not to mention help a client implement the ideas we're recommending to them - is to be vulnerable with them.”

How does this apply to the Project Management Professional?  In my post, No One Wants to Work with a Jerk, I discussed having the experience and knowledge of the technical aspects of the BA profession is parity.  You won’t separate yourself from the pack if you only focus on the technical aspect of your role. It’s the softer side that differentiates you and your team.  For the PM profession this is what Mr. Lencioni is talking about when he says “That's not to say that competence is irrelevant; clients need to know that we have the knowledge and experience to help them.  But once we've reached that level, the best way to differentiate ourselves from competition - not to mention help a client implement the ideas we're recommending to them - is to be vulnerable with them.”

Whether you view yourself as a consultant or not, you are a consultant or a service provider.  Many PMs don’t want to admit they are consultants because there is a negative view of that title. This is due to many consultants’ fear of losing business, fear of being embarrassed, or fear of feeling inferior.  By defending against these fears most consultants come across arrogant and egotistical.  Their focus is on how smart they are and a lack of focus on the customer’s needs. 

There are many great principles in this book that we should all be implementing. For today, I want to make a point about fear of losing the business.  If you don’t work for a consulting firm equate this to fear of losing your job.  As part of this fear Mr. Lencioni talks about telling the kind truth. Difficult messages need to be delivered even if the receiving end does not want to hear it. As a PM you have to take the viewpoint of what is best for the company. The value of Project Management, liked business analysis, shows itself when a project gets canceled or redirected.  PMs are in the position to recognize when the cost justification for the project is no longer valid.  If you see this happening you can’t sit back and let the project continue; even if the project sponsor or your boss really wants to implement the project.  You need to tell the kind truth and help the sponsor or boss see why the project needs to be canceled, delayed or redirected.  I have spoken with many PMs who are scared to raise these issues due to the potential of hurting their career at a company or potentially losing their job.  First, I agree with the author that “naked consultants understand that they have a responsibility for being a truth teller, even if this means they will be sacrificed.”  If you lose your job because of bringing up issues like this, do you really want to work there?  If enough bad projects continue most likely the company will go under or at least have some layoffs and reorganization efforts. Either way you can be impacted.

“Getting Naked” is a quick read jammed with great content.  This book will give you ideas on how to make sure your focus is always on doing what is good for your clients and help you become a desired PM.  As a PM community you need to continue to improve and the concepts in the books can definitely help if implemented.

How about we start Kupe’s online book club.  Once you read this book please come back and leave your thoughts on how you plan to implement the concepts.  If you have read the book, tell us what you think?  Have you implemented any strategies yet? 

To being “naked”,

Kupe

Don't forget to leave your comments below.

1 Book:  Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty
Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (February 2, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0787976392
Author: Patrick Lencioni


Jonathan "Kupe" Kupersmith is Vice President of Brand Development, B2T Training and has over 12 years of business analysis experience. He has served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in various industries. He serves as a mentor for business analysis professionals and is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) through the IIBA and is BA Certified through B2T Training. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone! Contact Kupe at kupe@b2ttraining.com.

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Kupe Kupersmith

Making people awesome is his main objective.

He possesses over 20 years of experience in helping organizations achieve business value.
Most recently he has was the president of a niche training organization.

He has also served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in the energy, television and sports management and marketing industries.

To round out Kupe's experience, he is a trained improvisational actor and applies those skills to help his clients be better collaborators and team players.

Kupe is the co-author of Business Analysis for Dummies and is an industry requested keynote speaker. Being an improvisational comedian, Kupe is sure to make you laugh while you’re learning. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone!

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