Project Management

Project Management Central

Please login or join to subscribe to this thread

Topics: Organizational Culture, Scope Management, Stakeholder Management
When Is It Correct, and Justified, to Say "No"?
I am the project manager for several "delivery only" projects - whereby my team has a specific set of tasks and scope of work to create the deliverables for a customer.

On a regular basis, there is an expectation that I will also project manage deliverables that feed into my projects, but that I have no direct relationship with, performance goals of, nor influence on the performing team (.i.e. my project deliverables can't be completed without a software module from another team).

These side projects are often related to a much, much larger delivery for the company as opposed to at my granular level; they are not funded by the budget on my projects, and they are often times internal political struggles that take time away from my actual PM work.

What do others do in situations where the expectation is that because you are the PM of "a" project, you should also take on the role of PM for projects feeding your assigned projects?

Is it acceptable to push back and suggest appropriate staff to work on the side project?

Or because the output of another group is required for your deliverables, do you engage?
Sort By:
Page: 1 2 next>
Whenever you feel you should, Melissa.

It is easy to say and hard to do, I know. Your position, previous behaviors, culture all play a role (we Germany can more easily say no)
Some tips:
- Take Time to consider the request
- Consider the consequences of saying no – without fear
- Be polite but not nice
- Delay the decision
- Anticipate requests & block (pre-empt)
- Offer an alternative
- Say no in person
- Do not apologize
- Avoid details – the message is denial
- Do NOT undervalue yourself
- Ask for help with prioritizing and limiting multitasking

Always know: I am the owner of my life and time
...
1 reply by Melissa Antoniano
Jan 20, 2020 4:00 PM
Melissa Antoniano
...
Thank you for your response, Thomas.
I appreciate your tips; and a couple jumped out at me.
"Don't apologize" - this is a good reminder, because it does feel as if I'm letting "someone(s)" down, however those same someone(s) will be quick to expect the project to deliver on time without regard for the extra impact of the addition of PM'ing related project.

And the other good reminder is about prioritizing - I do find it a useful tool to ask the person requesting that I take on the related project "is this my new priority; or is this something I can help you resolve by giving you the information I have".

Regards, Melissa
If the precedent is already set, you may not want to push back too hard, but I doubt it would be inappropriate to explore why others would not be able to manage the predecessors. Get a feel for the culture and maybe get an influential "champion" on your side, first.
...
1 reply by Melissa Antoniano
Jan 20, 2020 4:07 PM
Melissa Antoniano
...
Thank you Aaron - you're right about the culture! The culture is one I've been part of for the better part of my career - which in some ways makes it easier to push back; and in other ways it makes it more difficult. It seems that there has been a cultural shift to thinking "hey, you're a PM! Take this!" ; without consideration of "despite the title, is this the right person to lead a resolution to this project".

I appreciate your feedback.
There should be a change management plan in place for the project that details how changes and request for changes will be handled in the project and what person or team will be responsible for the changes, if any.

While this may seem not related, it is basically a change request. You are asked to take on, and manage, a change to your project. You are asked to be the manager of that change request.

Also, it seems like, based on what I read, there is little to no planning involved for the overall project. Taking time to plan the project better and assigning tasks would probably help ease this as well.

But if not, you can always say no-this isn't my function-please refer to the senior project manager for guidance. Doing that enough times should call attention to the issue and role assignments could be clarified at that time.
...
1 reply by Melissa Antoniano
Jan 20, 2020 4:28 PM
Melissa Antoniano
...
Thank you Ed - this is a very interesting perspective to consider it as a change request.

Because the overall project is in such a different part of my company, I cannot speak to the planning that has or hasn't been done. The concern about the availability of my example of a the software module has been raised in prior discussions.

I appreciate your wording of ... this not being my job function, please refer to senior manager ... Even though I spend so much time communicating daily, sometimes I'm at a lack of how to respond :)

Best - Melissa
Jan 20, 2020 3:11 PM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
Whenever you feel you should, Melissa.

It is easy to say and hard to do, I know. Your position, previous behaviors, culture all play a role (we Germany can more easily say no)
Some tips:
- Take Time to consider the request
- Consider the consequences of saying no – without fear
- Be polite but not nice
- Delay the decision
- Anticipate requests & block (pre-empt)
- Offer an alternative
- Say no in person
- Do not apologize
- Avoid details – the message is denial
- Do NOT undervalue yourself
- Ask for help with prioritizing and limiting multitasking

Always know: I am the owner of my life and time
Thank you for your response, Thomas.
I appreciate your tips; and a couple jumped out at me.
"Don't apologize" - this is a good reminder, because it does feel as if I'm letting "someone(s)" down, however those same someone(s) will be quick to expect the project to deliver on time without regard for the extra impact of the addition of PM'ing related project.

And the other good reminder is about prioritizing - I do find it a useful tool to ask the person requesting that I take on the related project "is this my new priority; or is this something I can help you resolve by giving you the information I have".

Regards, Melissa
Jan 20, 2020 3:44 PM
Replying to Aaron Porter
...
If the precedent is already set, you may not want to push back too hard, but I doubt it would be inappropriate to explore why others would not be able to manage the predecessors. Get a feel for the culture and maybe get an influential "champion" on your side, first.
Thank you Aaron - you're right about the culture! The culture is one I've been part of for the better part of my career - which in some ways makes it easier to push back; and in other ways it makes it more difficult. It seems that there has been a cultural shift to thinking "hey, you're a PM! Take this!" ; without consideration of "despite the title, is this the right person to lead a resolution to this project".

I appreciate your feedback.
Jan 20, 2020 3:52 PM
Replying to Ed Tsyitee Jr
...
There should be a change management plan in place for the project that details how changes and request for changes will be handled in the project and what person or team will be responsible for the changes, if any.

While this may seem not related, it is basically a change request. You are asked to take on, and manage, a change to your project. You are asked to be the manager of that change request.

Also, it seems like, based on what I read, there is little to no planning involved for the overall project. Taking time to plan the project better and assigning tasks would probably help ease this as well.

But if not, you can always say no-this isn't my function-please refer to the senior project manager for guidance. Doing that enough times should call attention to the issue and role assignments could be clarified at that time.
Thank you Ed - this is a very interesting perspective to consider it as a change request.

Because the overall project is in such a different part of my company, I cannot speak to the planning that has or hasn't been done. The concern about the availability of my example of a the software module has been raised in prior discussions.

I appreciate your wording of ... this not being my job function, please refer to senior manager ... Even though I spend so much time communicating daily, sometimes I'm at a lack of how to respond :)

Best - Melissa
Hi Melissa

I would adopt a more direct approach .

1) Outline your project scope clearly to your manager and your sponsor.
2) Clarify any grey areas of work that fall outside the realm of your projects with your sponsor and manager and get a firm acceptance of "Who owns" those grey areas .
3) Get a Sign off from Your sponsor and manager on the work , and the ONLY work that your team will be doing and Nothing more.
4) Meet with the PMs of the other dependent projects and establish boundaries of responsibility and delivery.
5) Establish a project dependency map or a visual communication mechanism(Line of your responsibility and delivery versus the other PMs) and communicate that to your sponsor and manager.
6) Keep raising Risks and Issues regarding the fact that you are waiting for other project to deliver an outcome for you to proceed or for the other project to complete their bit after your project has delivered it's scope, through your Project Board and Steering committee meetings. Nothing to hide here , just make it crystal clear.
7) Be Polite but Be firm and there is no shame in saying "Thanks for the suggestion , but "XYZ" is not in my project scope. More than happy to have a meeting with yourself and the PM that manages this scope item and clarify it"
8) There is also a smart way of saying this to your boss. "I understand that you trust me to deliver this extra work , however, this work would require me to assume a more senior/supervisory responsibility and perhaps have another PM working for me . Would you be able to re-consider my pay grade and offer me a Project Coordinator/PM to deliver this extra scope?".
9) You know you are employable . Do not be scared to say "no" or ask for more money if you think you can deliver the extra scope with some extra $$ Motivation or should you get additional resources to help deliver that extra scope by getting a promotion.
10) Push back firmly using the "Budget" as your trump card and the reality of the situation. " I'm Sorry but my project is not funded to deliver this extra scope. If you can raise a change request to the steering committee to add the scope, funding and time to deliver this extra scope and if approved, more than happy to assist ."

Communication here is doubly important because stakeholders are notorious in adding scope to a PM's deliverable at all times !
...
1 reply by Melissa Antoniano
Jan 21, 2020 9:55 AM
Melissa Antoniano
...
Thank you Deepesh for your very thoughtul and detailed response.
Among many items that jumped out at me was your item #8. I'm writing that down in my notebook for easy reference during the upcoming performance review discussion :)

It is interesting that the stakeholders don't like it when others (even the project team add to the scope) but have no problem doing it themselves as you point out.

Regards, Melissa
Melissa -

To answer the overall question you raised, I'd suggest that two valid reasons for saying "No" (professionally) are:

1. You are being asked to cross ethical, legal or personal boundaries

2. Proceeding would put the organization, others or yourself at unnecessary risk

"This above all: to thine own self be true" - Shakespeare

Kiron
...
1 reply by Melissa Antoniano
Jan 21, 2020 9:59 AM
Melissa Antoniano
...
Hello Kiron - and thank you for response. I agree with your points.
I've begun mindfully pushing back on the management team when it comes to requests of "here - just take care of this". My aim is to train them (for lack of better wording) to realize that project management isn't just a catch-all for any and all work to be done.
And my other aim is as you eloquently quote "to mine ownself be true". Regards, Melissa
Jan 20, 2020 5:12 PM
Replying to Deepesh Rammoorthy
...
Hi Melissa

I would adopt a more direct approach .

1) Outline your project scope clearly to your manager and your sponsor.
2) Clarify any grey areas of work that fall outside the realm of your projects with your sponsor and manager and get a firm acceptance of "Who owns" those grey areas .
3) Get a Sign off from Your sponsor and manager on the work , and the ONLY work that your team will be doing and Nothing more.
4) Meet with the PMs of the other dependent projects and establish boundaries of responsibility and delivery.
5) Establish a project dependency map or a visual communication mechanism(Line of your responsibility and delivery versus the other PMs) and communicate that to your sponsor and manager.
6) Keep raising Risks and Issues regarding the fact that you are waiting for other project to deliver an outcome for you to proceed or for the other project to complete their bit after your project has delivered it's scope, through your Project Board and Steering committee meetings. Nothing to hide here , just make it crystal clear.
7) Be Polite but Be firm and there is no shame in saying "Thanks for the suggestion , but "XYZ" is not in my project scope. More than happy to have a meeting with yourself and the PM that manages this scope item and clarify it"
8) There is also a smart way of saying this to your boss. "I understand that you trust me to deliver this extra work , however, this work would require me to assume a more senior/supervisory responsibility and perhaps have another PM working for me . Would you be able to re-consider my pay grade and offer me a Project Coordinator/PM to deliver this extra scope?".
9) You know you are employable . Do not be scared to say "no" or ask for more money if you think you can deliver the extra scope with some extra $$ Motivation or should you get additional resources to help deliver that extra scope by getting a promotion.
10) Push back firmly using the "Budget" as your trump card and the reality of the situation. " I'm Sorry but my project is not funded to deliver this extra scope. If you can raise a change request to the steering committee to add the scope, funding and time to deliver this extra scope and if approved, more than happy to assist ."

Communication here is doubly important because stakeholders are notorious in adding scope to a PM's deliverable at all times !
Thank you Deepesh for your very thoughtul and detailed response.
Among many items that jumped out at me was your item #8. I'm writing that down in my notebook for easy reference during the upcoming performance review discussion :)

It is interesting that the stakeholders don't like it when others (even the project team add to the scope) but have no problem doing it themselves as you point out.

Regards, Melissa
Jan 20, 2020 5:42 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
Melissa -

To answer the overall question you raised, I'd suggest that two valid reasons for saying "No" (professionally) are:

1. You are being asked to cross ethical, legal or personal boundaries

2. Proceeding would put the organization, others or yourself at unnecessary risk

"This above all: to thine own self be true" - Shakespeare

Kiron
Hello Kiron - and thank you for response. I agree with your points.
I've begun mindfully pushing back on the management team when it comes to requests of "here - just take care of this". My aim is to train them (for lack of better wording) to realize that project management isn't just a catch-all for any and all work to be done.
And my other aim is as you eloquently quote "to mine ownself be true". Regards, Melissa
Page: 1 2 next>  

Please login or join to reply

Content ID:
ADVERTISEMENTS

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

- Mark Twain

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors