Breaking Project News: Whether Good or Bad

Breaking Project News: Whether Good or Bad

Project News might not be exciting especially when it is a bad news. As a Project Manager (PM) have you ever felt taciturn having to tell it as it is and knowing that you are behind schedule?  Maybe it was better when it was a favourable news of how you were able to cut costs by 30%-50% of the planned project budget.

Even though you are a truthful person by nature, sometimes it becomes difficult to tell it as it is when it comes to project reporting. Breaking project news or telling senior management or better still a Client that you are behind schedule or over budget might not be as comfortable as it sounds. When you have an off track information what do you do? How do you pass across such news without the heavens falling?

When a project is going badly, most Project Managers take it personally. They often think that this is a reflection of their personal worth versus that of project performance. When situations like this occur, no amount of praying is going to bring the project back in line, don’t bother spiritualizing it or wishing a change. Sometimes out of the hopefulness that the project will magically right itself, however, a tremendous amount of time could be further wasted, because the Project Manager is essentially “doctoring” the project reports or at least telling half-truths in project status meetings forgetting that eventually, the truth will surface.

How do you Break Bad Project News

1.       State the information as it is. There is no point struggling to doctor your report or telling partial truths. You have walked into this status meeting already so tell it as it is. If you have to print out all the necessary details or send an email after the status meeting, do so and let everyone understand the situation at hand. It is better your stakeholders hear it directly from you than from anyone else. If they get it elsewhere the trust reposed in you is at stake.


2.       Don’t just walk into a status meeting and announce that the project is problematic which could be over budget or behind schedule. Come into the meeting very prepared for all that could go right or wrong. State the current happenings, tell the stakeholders that the project is projected to be over budget or behind schedule but beyond that tell them what the next step is. A lot of times we feel disappointed in ourselves for not meeting up with expectations placed on us. The reality is that people are more afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of all of the potential reactions. In order to reduce the tension and stress at your status meetings, when the updates are not favourable, you need to come up with likely solutions to the problem at hand. This places you in control of the situation. You know exactly how the meeting will go: you will explain the situation, offer solutions, and then ask the client how he wants to proceed. Be in charge of the meeting. You should be the one leading the meeting. When a project is off track, this is usually because it is behind schedule or over budget. The PM’s role is not to simply report this as a status, but to present options to repair this. Also explain that if we change this or remove that requirement, we can stay under budget. If options are presented, the sponsor is likely to make a decision and move on. If no options are presented, then the sponsor is likely to berate the PM with question after question until he or she understands the situation. If you offer solutions, you present yourself as a professional who is in charge of the project. If you walk in with no solutions, you appear overwhelmed and confused. When you present possible solutions, you divert the executive’s attention away from your own performance to the options you have presented. At the moment, your role is to present the possible solutions to the issue, as well as presenting the issue itself.


3.       Stay Confident: if you present your range of solutions in a very timid and unsure way, be certain that you will get no commendation only worried looks on peoples’ faces. You must learn to control your own emotions and let them know you are really in charge of your project. You can also control fear by being confident in the options that you present to the sponsor. For instance, If you must walk into a sponsor’s office and state, “The project is over budget by $5000,” that can be a fearful conversation. Walking into that same office and breaking the project news by saying, “The project is expected to be over budget by about $5000 due to the economic situation; however, if we change the service provider to a competing brand which would still not compromise quality then we might be able to drop down the costs. The best service provider might be Mitch and Ed Inc and they would be able to deliver within 2weeks.” This statement offers a solution and sounds very convincing. Any Client would believe you have done your research. When you have a confident attitude and a range of solutions to bring the project back on track or meet the target as soon as possible, then it is easier for you to be in control of the project and the issue at hand. Your outlook should be positive and reflect in the way you handle the conversation.

Project Management could be tough, but it is not as bad as a lot of people make it seem. Attending the JK Michaels Interpersonal Skills training would help you get better with bearing this information. You can deliver any news as it is once you remain calm and confident and are ready to think of realistic ways out of the current situation.

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Mojisola Komolafe is a Project Management and HR Consultant with JK Michaels who helps individuals and organisations get better with managing their projects and getting results. She has over 8 years of experience managing projects for various companies which cuts across Telecoms, Oil and gas, Construction, Banking, Manufacturing and Agriculture. She is certified through PMI and has both the Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner certifications. She does a lot of volunteer services. In her free hours she tries to catch up with the world and her poultry farm.

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