There is currently an interesting discussion going on at LinkedIn about a Computerworld article called ‘Intelligent Disobedience’. If you have a minute in-between Christmas panic shopping attacks and shoveling snow, it’s worth a look.
The author (Gopal K. Kapur) states ‘Discussions with project managers about the key causes of failed and challenged projects always raise two primary issues: half-baked or harebrained ideas becoming projects, and excessive scope creep.’ He then draws an interesting analogy between a blind person (sponsor) and their guiding dog (the Project Manager). Aaaahhh… this could be misread! The focus there is NOT the sponsor being blind, but the dog’s behavior 😉 The dog needs to disobey in certain situations (i.e., don’t cross the street even if the master says so) in order to protect its master’s health. For me this is yet another case for the modern PM role, which is moving a lot closer to the business.
You can tell from the comments on the LinkedIn discussion that sponsors / customers coming up with not-so-grand or grand but half-baked ideas is quite a common phenomenon. We’ve all been there, haven’t we. As some comments point out, some of the PM disciplines like change management and particularly risk management can be of great value to handle such situations. And of course, experience helps you dealing with such rather delicate situations. I think it is very important to approach these kinds of suggestions with an open mind. In the end, this is about innovation! Maybe this is a good thought, and all it now needs is a bit of tweaking. It would certainly not be wise to just turn something down because it seems complex at first or ‘just’ because it means changes to your projects. After all, projects are undertaken to gain business value! (And there is this thing called agile Project Management that has been designed to solve a lot of these issues and is proven to be effective in in rapidly changing, innovative environments.)