WWYD? - Trouble in Paradise

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begeland
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Here's the scenario (and I've not been through this one...but thought it could be an interesting discussion)...

You're a consulting project manager brought in to work on a project where it appeared the current project manager had failed. Failed the project, failed to keep the team under control, etc. Remember, you're coming from outside - outside the corporate culture, an unbiased 3rd party except for the fact that senior management is paying your relatively high consulting rate.

After a month on the project you realize that the real problem may not have been the project manager who couldn't handle the team and the project. It may have been the highly valued tech lead who tries to make leadership's life miserable and undermine their authority. He's driving you crazy and he's acting like a cancer on the project - think the obnoxious toddler who never really grew up because he gets his way and he's the guru everyone needs. You know this project needs him badly, the customer values him highly, and so does the delivery organization's senior leadership.

What do you do? Do you continue on managing the project as is? Do you talk to senior management about what you perceive to be the real issue - the tech lead resource? Do you talk to that resource? Do you risk your high paying consulting gig to point a finger at this guy?

Thoughts? Please discuss.... Thanks!
Brad
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I suggest having a very honest and candid conversation with the Executive Management team. A PM is hired (as you indicated usually for a rate on the higher side), to provide insight to the project from all angles. Ask the team why they hired you and what they expect from you. Explain the situation with their "overly active" technical resource, your understanding of the value of the employee, the RISKS to the project, and any other concerns. I would at that time ask leadership to make the choice of keeping you on as the PM (be prepared for their decision) and IF they decide to keep you on, explain that you need their support in explaining to the technical resource the roles and responsibilities of you and all other team members. Make sure you end the meeting with their FULL SUPPORT if you are to continue as the PM and the entire team understands who is "running the show".
atunseth
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I would talk face to face, one on one with the resource causing the problem. Outline what I believe the problem is, ask what that person's take on it is, non confrontationally try to get their perspective. If that doesn't help resolve the issue, then, yes, as a paid consultant, I would feel obligated to take factual data to the management team regarding the reason the project is not going to be successful, and solution options. What they choose to do from there, including cancelling my contract, is up to them. If they choose that route rather than solve the problem, the project isn't going to be successful anyway and I will have removed myself from a head banging situation before I've caused myself permanent brain damage.
ariiipm
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Brad,

It is simple. Just follow his instructions, sincerely.

Considering all the inputs you have given,

I would just play a second fiddle to him (the tech lead) and keep satisfying his ego until the project is accepted and paid fully by the customer.

I would let him decide literally everything and keep praising his decisions even if they are wrong sometimes.

Once the project is over and I am paid my fees fully, I would walk away from the project until next such technically complex project comes and where the same tech lead happens to be the tech lead.

Why?

He (the tech lead) has got a severe psychological problem and he has literally waited for the right opportunity to hijack the project to show who he is.

Handling & negotiating with such persons is very easy contrary to what many believe. Just follow their instructions till the project is completed (hostages are released).

When I get fat consulting fee for following and playing a helping hand role (more of a coordinator than a manager), why not? My focus is on the project completion and not on who is bigger here.

It is my self-esteem that is temporarily at stake by yielding to him all the time, but my self-awareness will keep reminding me I am slowly winning.

This will be win-win-win-win proposition for all the key stakeholders of the project.

More such troubles, please.

Ari
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begeland
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Ari-
I see your point, and if things go fairly well with the arrogant tech lead running the show, then I'm on board (work smarter not harder...as long as it's lucrative). But if his direction is poor and starts to cause issues, then we have to take over. But I think that's probably a given and everyone knows that. Thanks for commenting!
Brad
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