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August 2007

Full Contact Project Management

project management Super Nanny
as a PM

So there I was, snack in hand, settling down on the couch to relax for a few minutes after a long day. I flicked on the TV and thought I'd unwind for a bit. "Super Nanny" was on. Well, it was something to do before getting back to work upstairs. Besides, a TV show about a nanny and some kids would certainly take my mind off of construction work, right? How could I have been so wrong?

You know the show I'm talking about, don't you? Some poor family whose parents don't have a clue about how to deal with their strong-willed children and end up being held hostage by the three-, four- and seven-year-old? I know you've seen that show! Better yet: I know that you've seen this while walking around in public.

So you're probably saying, "Hey, what gives Coach? Stick to the subject, will ya?" And I'll tell you that, when I first sat down, snack in hand, I would have thought the same thing. Then I was knocked over the head with this thought — from this nanny — on exactly how to be an effective PM. So give me a second and let me tell you what I was thinking because this is something that you have to absorb.

Let's start by asking ourselves why Super Nanny is so effective. It comes down to leadership: discipline, following through, having a goal and knowing where you are going. Makes sense; we all realize that those things are critical. In the case of the television show, the evil spawn of the timid parents, who care not for any leadership style except anarchy, are the ones who want to maintain control. And they will, until a superior mind and force demonstrates a different and a better way to go.

So let's leave the parents and kids for a moment and come back to the job site. You know the job site I'm talking about: The one with the construction manager who is completely unreasonable. Always wanting something done — yesterday. Always asking for a favor — a free one, at that. Hardly ever gives in on anything — it's always your fault, your scope, your problem, your delay. That's the guy! Now it's time for Coach to make the connection between nannies and construction managers, don't you think?

Back to the kids. One of them is the worst: the four-year-old who thinks he can take down his mom. Screams at her all the time. Says "no" to just about every request. Mom is frazzled; she's giving up and barely hanging on. Dad is absolutely no help.

Just before the parents throw in the towel, Super Nanny comes to the rescue. She coaches Mom on technique and then she encourages her to set some rules, get everyone to agree to them, and then force the kids to live by them. The kids rebel — what a surprise! She puts the main offender into the "naughty corner" and makes him stay there. The little criminal runs off. Super Nanny forces Mom to bring the kid back, reinforce the rules, let them know that she's serious. The kids still want to rebel.

For 2-1/2 hours this goes on. Finally, the kids learn that Mom is not going to budge — not this time — and they have to give in and follow the rules. And Dad reinforces Mom and sticks up for her. The family is saved!

So where is Coach going with this? I think you know: Those nasty kids are those tough, complaining, whining, demanding CMs and GCs you occasionally work for. You can see the connection, can't you?

What was it that turned things around for Mom? She remembered that there are rules, and that everyone had to abide by them. The rules made the difference. Where does that leave us as PMs? We know all too well that we have rules to abide by. But guess what? So do our clients! As a matter of fact, the rules that the clients want us to abide by — the contracts and project documents — are created by our clients, and they are required to abide by them, as well.

And that is why, when one of those big, bad types makes demands, we have to remind him about the rules. What does the contract call for? But he might whine! So we ask him what do the specifications tell us to build? Or he might scream and cry! So we ask him what do the plans happen to show or not show? It might take us 2-1/2 hours, 2-1/2 days or it might even play out over several weeks, but we continue to be firm, to smile at our client, tell him that we'd love to give him what he wants, but, hey, "rules are rules!" We have procedures, and we don't work off of verbal demands on the job site.

When we recognize that something has changed, we deal with it according to the rules, because ultimately, that's the best way for us, and it's usually the only way we can get paid fairly for this kind of work. Super Nanny would be so proud!


Coach Gary's Corner:






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