We’ve all heard the expression used about one country or government unleashing a preemptive strike on another country or government. The purpose of a preemptive strike is to gain the advantage of initiative and to harm the enemy at a moment of minimal protection. This moment of weakness or minimal protection could be while the enemy is most vulnerable, perhaps during mobilization or transport.
It takes planning. There are many decisions to be made as to the timing of launching a preemptive strike. However, the following are three of the main criteria:
1. There is the existence of an intention to injure;
2. There is a clear undertaking of military preparations that increase the level of danger; and
3. There is a need to act immediately because of a higher degree of risk.
You may be wondering how the notion of a preemptive strike in life and death situations ties into your project management job. Thankfully, the majority of project management jobs are not nearly as dangerous as the situation described above. But there are some principles that we can apply when it comes to being an extremely effective Project Manager that sets themselves apart from others.
You Need to Make the Call
If you have a project management job where part of your responsibility is managing projects on behalf of your company’s clients, then this is a great place to start exercising preemptive project management. Clients will typically not be involved in the day to day goings on of the project that you are managing on their behalf. But, they have an insatiable need for knowing what is going on with their project.
It’s up to you as the Project Manager to let them know. This could be as simple as a preemptive phone call to inform them of the latest. Take this opportunity to let them know a particular milestone was reached, or perhaps there is a risk that surfaced on the project that they need to know about. They may not necessarily like the news, but they will appreciate the fact that you called them ahead of time informing them of the current status or issues surrounding their project.
The alternative to performing this type of preemptive project management job is for them to call you. They may have to leave a message. You may be busy working with other clients. They have to call back again and leave another message. Their anxiety is beginning to escalate because they haven’t heard back from you yet. They then choose to escalate, taking their concern of you not getting back to them up the management chain at your company. This, of course, opens up a whole new set of issues that you don’t have time to deal with. You can preempt all of this pain by just making a simple phone call.
Plus, it doesn’t need to be a phone call either. An email will suffice, take them to lunch, or even a quick text (‘project is 2 days behind but will catch up’) is all it takes to put their mind at rest. The options are endless about how you can preemptively keep someone informed about the status of their project.
Take them Off Hold for Moment
What if you are genuinely busy or even slightly overwhelmed? If you are overwhelmed, long-term you need to talk with your manager about getting that resolved…but short-term there is even something you can do about that when it comes to performing your preemptive project management job. Take the person off hold and tell them you’ll be right with them.
When was the last time you called into a customer service line somewhere and ended up being on hold for a long-time? 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes pass and you haven’t heard from anyone. How does that make you feel? You’re not even sure if you are in the right place or talking to the right department. You feel as if your time is being wasted. Your frustration level begins to grow.
Then, someone picks up the line and says “You’re in the right place. We can help you. We’ll be right with you.” Immediately, all your concern and anxiety disappear. It may not be as fast as you would like, but you know they know you are there and you’re at the right place.
You can do the same thing with your project management job. You may get into the situation where someone has been “on hold” for a long period of time. Let them know that you know they are there, you understand their concern and their issue, and you’ll be able to help them. It may not be on the time frame the client would like, but they know their turn is coming up. This will perform wonders when it comes to preemptive project management.
Create Preemptive Project Management Systems
Most people in the business world like a routine. Meetings are scheduled the same time each week, reports are due the same time each week, you get paid the same time each week. Schedules are good. In your project management job, make sure you have implemented a preemptive project management schedule as well.
What does this consist of? Start with a regularly scheduled status meeting with the client. This could be every week, every two weeks, or possibly every month (a month may be too long, however). Then, throw in a regularly scheduled project status report that includes the key metrics you’ve all agreed to as being important. Finally, set up a quarterly executive review where project sponsors and other stakeholders can be apprised of the latest with the project and any assistance that may be necessary from them.
What does this do? It minimizes the ad hoc, one-off phone calls asking about the project status. If a client knows that they have a weekly meeting on Wednesday to discuss project status, they will most likely wait until that meeting to hear the latest. Plus, they know they will also have the opportunity to bring up any questions or concerns they may have as to how the project is progressing.
Keep these meetings simple. You should have systems and processes in place that quickly provide you the information you need to get everyone on to speed quickly. These meetings can be no more than 30-minutes and the reports can be a one page summary of current status, next steps, risks, and open items for discussion. Some people on their project management job feel as if they need to burn through reams of paper providing an update on everything under the sun. This is a waste of time. Focus on the 80% that is important and the 20% that is unimportant will fade away.
Beat Them to the Punch
One thing that may feel like warfare in your company is when something goes terribly wrong on a project and there are different stories and or reasons why. This is when the “blamestorming” sessions begins and everyone starts to run for cover. Take this opportunity on your project management job to perform preemptive project management as well.
Create the opportunities to meet with the executives or project sponsors that this project rolls up to. Make sure that they have the fact set from your point of view. You never know how someone else is going to paint the picture of what happened, and it’s incumbent upon you to provide your input at this time as well.
Fortunately, your project management job is not warfare. But, you can apply the principles of a preemptive strike and ensure that everyone knows what’s going on with their projects before they ever have to ask again.
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