The eXtreme Project Management™ Series: No. 5
Based on the forthcoming book:

The End of Project Management as We Know It:
A Guide to eXtreme Project Management™

by Doug DeCarlo, Principal
The Doug DeCarlo Group

Beyond Begging:
Sources of Power for the eXtreme Project Manager

(Excerpted from Critical Success Factor #2: Leadership By Commitment)

Most project managers I run into are beggars sitting on a throne of gold. They bemoan the fact that they have a lot of responsibility and little, if any, authority over people and resources. Result: they cajole team members to come to meetings, supplicate managers for needed resources, or go hat-in-hand to the sponsor asking for more time or dispensation from delivering all the requested product features. You can always tell the ones who've forgotten about their real sources of power: their knees are scruffy. So here's a checklist of power sources. Milk every one you can.

Position Power
This is the best-known source of power. It's nice if you can get it, but the chances are low for project managers. Still, it's worth noting just in case. When you have, you're the boss and they know it. A legacy of Industrial Revolution, Position Power is based on where you fall in the pecking order. And, it can even be effective even when the subordinate is not your direct report. So, if you're a Director level person, you are not likely to disobey an Exec. VP, even if she's not your boss. At its worst, Position Power becomes power by coercion. Sometimes coercion is necessary. It gets things done, but can backfire if people do not buy in and practice malicious compliance (following instructions knowing the thing is going to backfire), or they find ways to beat the system.

The motto for many who wield Position Power is often, "Kiss up and kick down."

Referential Power
Referential Power is clout by association. You ring up Jack, Director of Wireless technology. "Good afternoon Jack, I'm the project manager for Joan who is sponsoring the Headboomer project. (Joan happens to be the Senior VP of Engineering.) "I need just 5 minutes of your time. Can we meet this afternoon?" "Sure. I'm free at 3:30" You show up and after exchanging a few preliminary banalities, you pop the question: "We really need one of your audio gurus for a couple of months to help us on this mission critical initiative for Joan. Can you shake somebody loose?" "No, problem," says Jack.

Reputation Power
The word may be out that you really know what you are doing and have pulled off one or more miracles before. Here, your power is derived from your reputation. The idea is to name drop an inarguably successful project you led or participated in. Because they believe history is likely to repeat itself, you find it easier than most to get what you need.

Expert Power
With credentials up the wazoo, you are considered the subject matter expert in a technical or other discipline including project management. In certain industries such as pharmaceutical, information technology, corporate and estate law and other brainy and pedigreed professions, Expert Power is a major source for getting your way. So, put all the alphabet soup you can after your name: PhD, MD, CSM, etc.

New Guy Power
You just joined the department or organization. Or, you're brought in to save a project that's gone down the rat hole. People want to give you a chance to succeed and straighten out the mess that was left behind. For the new kid on the chopping block, there is usually a window of opportunity where you can get more of what you want than after you've established roots. Carpe diem.

Precedent or Compliance Power
This is also known as conformity power. Here you remind them that, "We've done it this way before so there is little risk." This approach comes in handy when you want to influence someone above you who is new to the organization and doesn't know the ropes. It works well when there is an accepted third party standard that must be adhered to. "If we don't do this, the FDA will come after us." Or, "We will be out of ISO compliance."

Logic Power
Logic Power goes right for the head. You steamroller them with facts and figures and persuasive arguments. This often works well when you are dealing with the more Newtonian-like personality styles, especially engineers, scientists, financial managers and other left-brain dominant types.

Payback Power
This is when you call in a U O Me. Or, the other way around: you tell the person that if you provide me with both Adam and Samantha for two full days this week, I'll get you some help when you're up the creek.

Information Power
People like to be in the know, especially if it means getting privileged information ahead of others. Your argument might be, "By participating on this team you will be getting and shaping inside information and making contacts that will give you a jump on others."

Per Day Delay Power
What does it cost the company in lost revenues, profits or recurring costs for every day the project slips? If you can come up with this number, you'll be surprised how much clout you will have to get more bucks to hire additional people or throw more technology at the problem to shorten the delivery date. Or, if you want a good excuse to trim down the project of its non-essential features, you can frame your point in the context of how many weeks can be shaved off the schedule and the resultant revenues or costs savings per day that will be realized.

WOW Power
WOW power means to identify the overarching, common compelling vision that makes the project a worthwhile venture. WOW Power energizes the venture because it elevates the endeavor from "just a project" to a cause. When people are on a heartfelt mission, they can become unstoppable. We only have to look to the Palestinians and the Israelites or Gandhi for vivid examples of the lengths people will go to when they believe in a cause.

Scarcity Power
Some people are motivated by lack, fear or missing out. You can influence them by saying, "We need to act by next Tuesday, otherwise we pay a penalty." Or, "If we miss our window tomorrow with Jim, we won't be able to get approval until he gets back from Bali."

Reward Power
Money, other perks and performance bonuses can get you what you want. This can be particularly effective when a vendor is given a bonus for early or on-time completion. It can also be used in conjunction with Per Day Delay Power covered above: Once you know the dollar cost per day or week for a delay in the project, you can reward accordingly. For instance, if the cost per day of delay is $1,000, then giving the contractor a bonus of $500 per day ahead of schedule is a winner all around.

I say, empower yourself. Put the tin cup a way. Forget about begging. It hardly works. Plus, it's also bad for your self-esteem and can ruin your kneecaps. Instead, take inventory of the real untapped power you have at your disposal. And use it.

In part 6 of this series, I'll continue to highlight key topics for eXPM Critical Success Factor # 2: Leadership by Commitment.

Until the next time, keep the beat going.

eXtremely yours,


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