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How To Get Things Done

March 15, 2016

Jack, didn’t you used to work in our Baton Rouge office?

Yeah, I was the desktop lead who opened the center. Why?

I need some help putting a plan together to revamp it for another client. Can I pick your brain a little?

Jack was no longer a desktop engineer. In fact, Jack didn’t have anything to do with Baton Rouge, or my project. Jack had a very demanding new role working with a very high profile, high maintenance client. Why would Jack help me? Should I even ask him? Was it reasonable to ask him to take time to answer my questions about a center he hadn’t worked at in years?

It’s true, what they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Andrew Jackson was president in 1829. He had a problem. His cabinet, the Secreteries that were supposed to help him run the government, were ineffective. Internal strife was so bad that Jackson quit holding cabinet meetings. Instead, he turned to a group of trusted friends. These men became known in the press as the “kitchen cabinet.” They effectively took the place of the official cabinet until 1831 when Jackson was able to reorganize his official cabinet. 

Every project has an official project team. There should be a project manager, a sponsor, and at least a few people known as “resources” to get the work done. Every effective project manager I know also has an unofficial project team. Friends, aquaintences, or even just coworkers who owe you a favor, or enjoy working with you. Every project runs into obstacles. Nothing goes exactly according to plan. There are times when the difference between success and failure can be the ability to call in a favor, or contact someone outside normal channels. I’ve seen projects, often led by new project managers that hit their first roadblock and come to a halt. The frustrated PM attempts to push his (or her) project forward, over the speed bump, but it refuses to budge. It’s at those times that often a single phone call can make the difference. 

I once was had a project with an incredibly short timeline. We had planned well, but another team failed to deliver on time. It put our entire three day rollout in jeopardy. My team of engineers looked to me in frustration.

What should we do? Should we cancel and reschedule? It’s a 90 day delay.

No. Let me see what I can do in the next 24 hours.

I made some calls. I called in a few favors. I went outside the normal lines of communication. It was a tight squeeze, but we managed to get the project back on track and avoid the three month delay. 

Rather than hindering projects, these lines of communication outside of the normal hierarchy are signs of a strong organization. Rather than discourage them, you should be encouraging this type of collaboration. It makes for stronger teams and more successful projects. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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