Have you ever seen a log-rolling competition? This is the event where two lumberjacks stand on a log that is floating in the river. They stand on opposite sides of the log and one of the lumberjacks begins rolling the log. The contest involves attempting to stay on the log while attempting to cause the competitor to lose their balance and splash into the water. It’s great fun to watch and always entertaining…as long as it’s done in a river out in the woods.
Unfortunately, some have taken this sport and brought it into conference rooms across the globe. I’m sure you’ve seen this event before without realizing what you were watching. There are two people that are paired off on opposite sides of the conference room table. One of these persons says something that the other person doesn’t necessarily agree with or hits them the wrong way. There’s a slight pause as their eyes lock across the expanse of the conference room table…and it’s on.
There is an inaudible invitation to jump on the log by the offended party. The initiator is typically a person senior to the poor bloke that uttered the comment. They could also possibly be the project manager on the project. They have unfortunately decided to use log-rolling as one of their project management tools!
What Does the Project Management Log-Roll Look Like?
The next time you are in a project management meeting, look for the following signs that a project manager has decided to use this technique.
Relentless Line of Questioning
Once someone has jumped on the log with the person that invited them, the questioning begins. It’s like watching every episode of Perry Mason ever recorded. “Is it true that you knew this information at this particular time? If you did know this information, why didn’t you do something about it? Who else knew about this information? When did they know about the aforementioned information? Did you not feel compelled to tell someone up the executive chain about this situation…?” and on and on and on. Now, the purpose of these questions is not to gather information that can be useful, but rather the motive is to humiliate and embarrass the person that is on the log being rolled.
You Look Like an Idiot
The next thing that the project manager will bring out during a log-rolling session is to make sure everyone knows that he or she knows more than the person that is on the log with them. This takes many forms, such as a condescending tone of voice, a dismissive attitude, and a line of reasoning that tars and feathers the person that was unwise enough to get on the log with the irate questioner.
Voice is Raised to Accentuate the Negative
Finally, a log-rolling can be identified with just enough of a raised voice to show there is much agitation and angst in the person doing the log-rolling. This is just enough to accentuate the negative and make sure everyone feels uncomfortable.
What would a real log-rolling be without an audience? Well, it’s no different on projects. Everyone that’s at this particular meeting has the privilege of being an eyewitness of this horrific sport.
Let me be clear…I unequivocally abhor it when project managers use log-rolling as a project management tool. However, I have unfortunately seen it too many times to not acknowledge the fact that this occurs frequently. I’ve also seen the ultimate outcome over time where good people leave a company because they are not going to put up with this type of behavior.
How to Survive the Log-Roll
There are some ways that you can survive the log-roll if you have been challenged to such a dual.
- Don’t Get on the Log in the First Place – There are things that you know will set someone off and cause a less than desirable reaction. Try and stay away from those areas. Better yet, preempt the blowup by having a conversation ahead of time and offline. We are not saying crawl into a corner and don’t say things that won’t upset people. That’s going to happen and many times it needs to happen to get things done. However, there are ways of saying things that can be productive or they can be explosive. We’ve all experienced that in other relationships in our lives. Choose your words carefully, make your points, but at the same time do everything you can to stay off the log.
- Have your Facts Straight – One skill you must possess is the ability to have your facts straight if you do end up on the log. If a project manager is using this as a project management tool against you, it’s hard for them to knock you off if you know the details. Always know what the contract says, what conversations have been had, what has been done, what is yet to be done, and who the key players are that are on the project. This will quickly take the energy out of the person that is doing the log-rolling and help you keep your balance.
- Don’t Get Flustered – People that have never been log-rolled before (is there such a person?) find themselves getting flustered very quickly. The questions and line of reasoning comes at them fast and furious and it begins to cloud their thought process. They forget details and facts that would help their cause and end up stuttering and stammering until they ultimately lose their balance and fall into the cold water. The first thing you need to do when you find yourself up on the log is take a deep breath, be conscious of staying alert, and not let the other person take that edge away from you. You’ll be fine just as long as you know your facts and have done the right thing up to this point.
- Don’t Overreact – Finally, keep your cool. Even when the other person starts raising their voice or backing you into the corner, the last thing you want to do is come out swinging. You’ll undoubtedly regret what comes out of your mouth when you are in that state of mind and the chances of you winning are slim. You’ll add fuel to the fire of the other person, who has a lot to prove in front of the audience that is watching them use this negative project management tool. You, on the other hand, can prove how reasonable and rational you are by keeping your cool and not overreacting. That will go a long way towards increasing your credibility in the long run. Let the angry momentum of the other person force them off the log themselves.
Is There a Better Way?
You know there has got to be a better way than an old-fashioned log-rolling. It’s called a 1-on-1 conversation. If someone has a problem with you, or you have a problem with someone else, it’s best to take it offline and see how you can work it out amicably amongst yourself. There’s nothing fun, productive, or even fair about taking someone to task in front of an audience of their peers and superiors. Unfortunately, some feel this is the way to go and have continued to use it as one of their project management tools.
Is log-rolling fun? You betcha’! As long as it stays where it belongs…out in the river in the woods. Keep it out of the conference rooms across the globe and we’ll all be better off! Looking for a tool to get your facts straight? Try our software for 30 days, free, and see how we can help you stay on the log. Whether you need to know about current status, risks and issues, amount of time spent on the project and a host of other information, ProjectManager.com is the tool for you.