He came in late, approximately 30 minutes late. By this time we were almost at the end of the introductions. I suggested he relax, grab a coffee and then he could tell us a little bit about himself and what he wanted to get from this two day project management training course.
He relaxed and then introduced himself apologising for the delay; there has been a serious road accident which held him up.
He told us little about himself and then he did something no one else has done on any project management training event; he stood up and said; “I want you to tell me how to say no!”
I suggested he sit down and that the key thing was that as a project manager (he was!) you should never directly say no but use project management tools and techniques to help you do this; let the techniques do the talking.
This worked because at the end of the course he again stood up, pointed his finger and said: “Now I know how to say no!”
I was reminded of this when I read an article by Karl Pritchard. Karl has a great CV and operates from Maryland. He wrote a very interesting article suggesting we should learn how to say no!
He said that as a project manager you should only deliver what you have agreed (contracted) to deliver. I agree! Too often project managers are placed in a position of adding to the overall scope of the project. My suggestion is a little bit more subtle but you get the same results; use the risk log or the change control process or the business case to support what is now being asked for.*
The output is the same! Whether you directly say no, or use the templates and project management tools, you are saying no.
Project managers for some reason seem to have difficulty in saying no (whatever approach used). They seem to take on board every change to a project and still expect to deliver on time and to budget with the right results.
So, here’s a suggestion. Read Karl’s words and use the tools and templates but to quote the title of his article, saying no is the toughest word in the English dictionary. You can read his article here.