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Leadership doesn't want to plan, they just want it done!
Hi PMs, May I give you all a scenario? You have a large global organization who is in the midst of a transition. The C-Suite cascaded a new vision and the leader of each division has subsequently craved out a mission, vision, etc that rolls up to the C-Suite's vision.

We all know this song and dance: The department is understaffed, everyone is streched thin and department leadership wants 14 projects/initiatives lauched and closed by 12/31/2020. The trick is, departmental leadership and other leadership level stakeholders DO NOT want to plan!!! They just want to get it done. These people don't event want to provide scope or requirements; that's how bad it is. "We just need to tackle this beast!" Leaders are saying things like, "I'm the only person who can do this, but I don't have time until October" Really, Dude? And they literally will not do the work.

I was thinking of moving to more of an Agile framework to allow for iteration. HOwever if these folks dont want to do the work in the first place, how can you expect project success.

Dysfunction at it's finest. I just don't know what to do...any suggestions?
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Tough situation. If they'd listen I'd explain the steps, the process, asking for their help, but promising i'd stay out of their way. I've been in this position a bit. What I did was I stopped using PM terminology, take away any threat, and began with simply setting down and collecting a narrative. Once i had something I refined it, asking if I had it correct... until I had a plan. They owned it, it was their narrative, their understanding. From that I could plan and support them. I asked if I could make a call or clear the way for them. Eventually they began to turn it over to me. It was painful. I can't say i enjoyed it but it got everything moving. Good luck.
1 reply by Andrew Soswa
Mar 04, 2020 5:31 PM
Andrew Soswa
I have been in a similar situation and a sensible solution that worked for me was provided by Larry.
Some answers are misleading and do not understand the concept that the leadership knows better and they are too busy to learn a different way. Above all, introducing Agile at this point, would mess things even worse for now, and for the future when you get it on a straight line.
The management clearly realizes opportunities but does not accept the cost of them. You have to understand how it starts - usually it is the problem with transitioning from startup thinking to mature organization. Leaders think as "just do it" while organization acquired so many weird, bloated, compliance, security, etc processes that it halts the startup "just do it" delivery.
Follow Larry's advice and you'll be ok (either way).
Suggest you consider risk-driven project management. You can do it their way however here are the risk associated with this methodology. Start wit a risk management plan including a detailed risk identification, consequence and mitigation measures spreadsheet. Explain what needs to be done to mitigate the risks and enhance probability of success. I'm sure the C-Suit and division leaders understand the concept of risk.If they are okay with the exposure then you set your plan based on their direction.

This is a dictatorship, not leadership. In scenarios like this, you can try and introduce Agile and the concept of servant leadership while showing the real added value of doing this.

Its a tough situation, no questions about that, but arguing and confronting won't help in this situation.

1 reply by Romey Baker
Feb 21, 2020 8:29 PM
Romey Baker
I agree with you Rami. A dictatorship for sure. One probably born out of panic. I've seen this before - leaders trying to get a handle on stakeholder expectations and escalations. You can manage what you have influence over. Small wins for your team and let the rest go; or find other employment. However, I must warn you. Every organization has this issue. It's a matter of to what degree.
Definitely a tough situation. What I do in this situation is rough out what a plan would look like at a high level, and based on that, show them the disconnect from reality. That helps to illustrate the need for more comprehensive planning better than just explaining it.

For example, I might show that we have a supplier who needs 100 days to fabricate hardware, 6 months of design work is needed before we send a purchase order to the supplier, and knowing just that we should have started 3 months ago. Now what?

How you manage it from there could use an agile framework, but the first challenge is convincing people that you need a plan rather than just letting things follow the path of least resistance.
Erikka, you have clearly articulated both the sides. Offcourse agile is the way to go. Uphold the art of not getting things done, focus on the highest priority item that would please and help you gain confidence among the CxOs.

As you said there is a transition taking place, I assume the core is at stack.. it eventually would run through to every branch and every end point.

Cascade the importance to people and emphasis on vision to keep up the motivation.. I hope this is interim by the way :)
Erikka, I think in this challenging environment Leadership really need to be inclusive and go in with a participation approach.

The goals is set at 14 and you definitely want to try and achieve that as a team, no doubt. But does the team have a say in which 14 projects have the best chances of success if initiated?

Maybe what you are referring to as 'plan' is what I'm referring to as inclusive/participation.
I think it's really vital to get at least some requirements from them that you can work on and develop. Without eliciting these initial requirements from them, would be challenging to deliver on something they'll buy-in to.
Agile is NOT a silver bullet to slay senior management dysfunctions. All an adaptive approach might do is show the impact of those dysfunctions faster.

Unfortunately, unless you are in a position where you can influence senior leadership's thinking to be more strategic (i.e. decide what they will NOT do so that they can plan the vital few initiatives that they do wish to have implemented) this sounds like a death spiral to me.

Dear Erikka: If this is a real scenario, it's not easy. If you are going to stay with this company, you have to continually present financial and other reasons for doing things the right way. Doing things the right way will bring about the best overall results.
The situation is simple to face when you understand the basement about why we are hired as project managers. Projects are started to create a solution. Solution to what? To a business need/wish/desire/want. That business need/wish/desire/want create a problem situation then a solution must be created. But, what is a need?. An unbeatable situation from which every human being wants to leave as fast as possible. That´s because everybody say "just do it" and when you say them times almost always are not accepted. So, first thing to undertands is you will always get need/wish/desire/want that you have to translate to requirements to create the solution (in the PMI and other organizations business analyst is on charge of that). You never get requirements (something that will help you to create the solution). On the other side, a plan is always there. Explicit, implicit, in the PMI way, whatever. With that on hand you can take different roads. But you always have to think in terms of the solution to the problems your clients expressed, just in case a problem exists because problem is the gap between the perceived reality and the desire reality.
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