My Most Important Project Management Best Practice

During the (almost) five decades I have spent in the project management arena, I have collected many best practices that eventually end up in my textbooks. Most of these best practices revolve around continuous improvements to the project management methodology, resulting in updates to the policies, procedures, forms, guidelines and templates used for managing projects.

Actually, the wording “best practice” may be incorrect. It may be better to use the words “proven practice” because a best practice implies that we may not be able to improve it further. Proven practices, on the other hand, are subject to continuous updates.

There is, however, one best practice I’ve used over the years and have never been able to improve upon. I regard it as the “best” of the best practices, and it relates to how I run my life (related to project management, of course!). This best practice has not appeared in any of my books.

I spend a great amount of my time traveling and conducting seminars and workshops for the International Institute for Learning (IIL). We work with PMI chapters around the world and will send out brochures and e-mails about upcoming programs.

Once the program announcements are made, I begin to receive e-mails from people I have never met who want to take me to dinner. I enjoy having dinner with the PMI chapter officers the night before the event because they tell me about the companies that will be attending and what their expectations are. This input is invaluable because it allows for some customization of the presentation.

Unfortunately it is other people, many who have no intention of attending the conference, who offer to take me to dinner for their own personal reasons. This is what usually happens:

5:30 p.m.: The individual picks me up at my hotel and drives me to a restaurant at least 30 minutes from my hotel. This means that I am now at their mercy for a ride back to my hotel and they have my undivided attention.

6:00 p.m.: We arrive at the restaurant and order dinner. My host tells the waiter that we are in no hurry and want a slow, leisurely dinner. This usually gets me nervous because I will be a captive longer than I expected.

6:10 – 7:30 p.m.: My host tells me about his life history from the age of 10 to his current age of usually 30-40 years old. This includes information about his family, all of his education, the number of courses he/she took, the grades in the courses, and what they learned. And as expected, a lot of it is totally unrelated to project management. This also includes facts about their employment history. I am clueless as to why they are telling me this.

7:30- 9:00 p.m.: For the next 90 minutes, they tell me all of the facts about their current employer, especially everything that’s wrong with the company related to project management and everything they did (or at least tried to do) to correct the situation. Of course, they are very adamant that 99.99% of the problems are because of senior management. They try to make it appear that they are God’s gift to project management and yet their company does not appreciate their efforts.

During the discussion they continuously ask me, “Didn’t I make the right decisions?” or “Don’t you agree with me?” or “What would you have done if you were me?”  At this point I am getting a little nervous for fear that I may not have a ride back to my hotel. I am also fearful of giving him or her my ideas for how I would handle it because I have no idea what my host would do with the information or whether or not it would be taken out of context.

9:00 – 9:30 p.m.: Now we get to the real issue. Since their company obviously does not appreciate their efforts, they want to leave their company and is there anything I can do to help them find employment elsewhere? I just spent 4 hours listening to someone who want a project management position somewhere.

You cannot imagine how many times this has happened to me. So, what’s the best practice in how to handle this situation?

  • When people ask to take me out to dinner, I ask them one question: Why do you want to take me out to dinner?
  • If they have a valid reason, I will be glad to have dinner with them.
  • If they tell me it is a personal reason, then there’s no question in my mind that they are seeking employment and want my help. I then tell them that they can join me for breakfast in my hotel between 6:30 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. to discuss whatever they want.

In 30 minutes over breakfast, all of the important information is discussed. Most of the time they decline to have breakfast with me and just send me a resume. This best practice has worked well for me for several decades.

photo credit: Rob Ketcherside via photopin cc

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Comments

  1. I like your distinction between “proven practices” and “best practices.” And it sounds like this breakfast sharing time of project management expertise definitely falls into the category of best practice – unless maybe you can invite the various and sundry professionals to join you for a 15-minute coffee break between sessions at the conference? Now that would be efficient…

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