August 2008: Full Contact Project Management

Words: Dan KamysAugust 2008 Full Contact Project Management

Project Management Lessons as Taught by a Dog

Gary MicheloniBy "Coach" Gary Micheloni

So, there I was, just relaxing and enjoying life. I walked out into the backyard, and sat down to kick back and take things easy, at least that was my idea. You know what I mean?

But Olivia, my golden retriever, had something different in mind, as she brought me her favorite toy. Throw the toy; fetch the toy; throw the toy; fetch the toy. That's her job: to retrieve. I go outside to try and relax and forget about work; she's out there to retrieve. She was persistent, and I was in her element, so I did things her way.

I realized that Olivia just gave us a great lesson in leadership and project management. You see, Olivia taught me a couple of good lessons.

Coach Gary says:

You're in the game. Learn how it's played.

First, Olivia taught me the value of good leadership. She simply took charge of the situation. She knew what she wanted, so she brought her toy over to me. Second, she gave me a major league lesson in the value of persistence.

The question during the game of fetch is, "Who will get tired first?" Not Olivia. Each time I stood there and threw that toy (a small rubber tire on a rope), she brought it back.

By now, I was leaning back in the chair as I threw it another half-dozen times. She was panting hard, but kept coming back. She loves this stuff, so I finally gave up! Olivia is a fantastic teacher of project management theory. And, she actually teaches the practical aspect of full contact project management.

The lesson is that you've got to have a goal, be persistent, be consistent and be committed. Outwork and outlast the other guy. You do what it takes, and you get what you want.

What does your typical client want from you? Your client wants your skills to build his project, right now, on-time and without any hassles. He'd probably define hassles as RFIs, change orders and questions from you. He doesn't want to hear about it and expects you to just have it covered, even if it never showed on the plans.

And the bigger the client, the less he wants to be hassled. That's what many of us have done in the past. Now, we all know about Olivia's lesson.

We remember that we have to have a goal and be persistent, consistent and committed. When something comes up that your client would like you to fix for free, and it's not in your scope, then you have to tell your client about it. He'll probably dismiss it, but you have a choice. Do you put your tail between your legs and just walk away? Of course not! You go get the stick, and bring it back to your client. He'll probably try and throw it away, again. But you bring it back again. You can actually bring it back more times than he will throw it away.

Coach Gary says:

Stop worrying about what your client might think. Just bring it to him. Make him throw it or give in.

Most clients are wired to say, "No." That is their first, automatic response. And it works on most people. Your client may get somewhat annoyed when you first raise the issue, then actually become surprised when you dare to bring back the stick after being rejected. For most contractors, that's that. They'll give up after one try. But you've decided to bring back the stick every time your client throws it away.

And here's the dirty little secret about most clients: They give up after throwing the stick just one or twice. They would never last in Olivia's backyard. They'd have paw prints all over them, because Olivia has more resolve than they. It's all about dogged determination and a retriever mindset, isn't it? That's the essence of great leadership.

How do you learn this process? You need a system, so let's make this easy. Let's make this free, but still valuable. Go to my Web site,, or, and click on the link near the top of the page. It's the one that talks about signing up for my five-part miniseries on RFIs and change orders. Don't be fooled into not getting this free coaching, just because of the price. This is a valuable course. You'll be thanking me for a long time that you learned this stuff.

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author and consultant.      
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