WWYD: No Project Management Wanted

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Not sure if I've mentioned this situation before or not, but this actually happened to me. I worked for a professional services organization in a typical Sr Project Manager role on technical projects and the PMs were the most expensive billable project resource on each engagement. My new project client stated from the outset that they didn't like project managers, they didn't like me and they saw no need for a PM. They were extremely concerned about running out of budget even though my project schedule and detailed budget showed that we would be ok budget-wise (I know, our project schedules and project budgets are always optimistic that way at the outset).

My question is...how would you handle this type of customer? Maybe not this exact one because I don't think we'll see customers exactly like this one very often. But how do you handle the ones that see PM as an expensive luxury and they don't want to pay for you or have you very involved so that the budget goes further? They are more interested in the hardcore technical work and think that PM is just needless, expensive overhead or quick profit for the delivery organization.

Brad E.
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Hmmm, interesting...

I would probably ask to look at the success rate of their previous projects. If the organization has ran projects before, and without a PM, then logic would suggest that their success rate is probably poor. I would also ask them whether their projects actually delivered business benefit. If not, then push that as a PM you would effective manage the project in a manor which would mean the organization would see a tangible improvement from the benefits of this project.

In terms of the project, I would have small phases with a lot of decision gates. This will enable a tight control on the project and will induce a lot of stakeholder engagement at decision gate meetings.

Maybe a bit 'cheesey', but I would also look for some project success rate facts for their industry. If a technical project, then I would look for published data to drive home the fact that technical projects don't just manage themselves; they need proactive management from a PM.

Thanks...good ideas on this. I know mine was a bit unique in how paranoid they were and it was a fairly small project so my solution to calm their nerves was relatively easy. But if a PM ran into this on a large project - and I'm sure it happens periodically - showing success rates and really selling the justification of good PM leadership would be important. It was funny- they told my onsite 'technical lead' that they didn't like Brad (me). He said, "You've never met Brad!" They truly were off the wall and I can say that in the end we were friends, but getting to that point was not easy.

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