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Do Your Project Teams and Stakeholders Love or Hate Your Ideas?

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 9/18/2011

Are you a popular project manager? Do teams and stakeholders usually swing your way when it comes to your ideas and decisions or do they flat out dislike the choices you make? The worst PMs don’t even notice the anger of the crowd and if this is you, think of a new idea.

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    Applause or Boos? It’s Up to You!

    Stick with the old if you are like Perry Lately, it seems top politicians are receiving both applause and some boos from the public they serve and in the political arena, I know Americans are quick to offer both kudos and dismissals when their leaders do what they want; and when they offer up the idiotic, they do love to groan.

    Let’s take Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry who many say is more Tea Party than not. Let’s look at an example of where policies and decisions, even if they aren’t your very own, do offer great applause.

    During the Republican Debate on September 8, 2011 moderator and newscaster Brian Williams asked Governor Perry:

    “Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you….”

    Here’s where the crowd exploded not allowing moderator Williams to even finish the question. Let’s face it, those folks in favor of the death penalty will fight to the death (no pun intended) to let everyone know their beliefs. If one is found guilty of first degree murder in Texas, they will (after your appeal process is over) put you to death—it’s really that simple.

    When the audience applause stopped, moderator Williams got to finish the question:

    “…Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”

    First off Moderator Williams, Perry is from Texas, a very Red state where as comedian Ron White says, “When it comes to the death penalty—in Texas, we’ve got an express line. If you come to Texas and kill someone, we will kill you back!” But I digress, as usual.

    Perry on the death penalty Perry was quick to respond even though he isn’t responsible for all 234 executions in Texas:

    "No sir!...In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice."

    Hence the applause I suppose, however it wasn’t Perry’s idea or decision to institute the “express line” in Texas. It is after all the voters who continually vote for political candidates who approve and endorse the death penalty—making his statements on “justice” that evening, very, very popular.

    If you look at Perry’s “grand fortune” as Wall Street Journal reporter James Taranto put it in his article Why They Cheered, he’s pretty specific about the crowd leaning toward Perry:

    “Although (moderator) Williams surely did not intend it (the cheering) as such, this question was a gift for Perry, who got to reiterate his position while flattering voters by praising their wisdom.”

    Oh, the act of what’s popular and how you can turn even an unpopular idea into one everyone supports—even a project team and both external and internal stakeholders.

    I like to think of Perry as a sort of lost-in-the-dark project manager who really is smart but keeps it to himself. He’ll stick with the old and rarely try the new idea or methodology because he fears questions or, in the end, making a real decision all on his own.

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    It’s Booing Time

    He has a new idea Then there are the continual woes from the Big White House in D.C. where our elected President reigns. Obama’s “yes we can” lost a lot of steam, especially when the economy got so bad, unemployment soared to around 10 percent nationally and people were losing their homes to foreclosure left and right.

    Still, he tried in his speech to Congress the very same day—well, the evening of September 8th. “Pass this jobs bill” was quoted by Obama seventeen times so he really means it, I guess, but was anyone listening or did they even care? Here, project managers can learn a lesson—even a good idea can’t sway your popularity or win votes, especially when it took so long for you to even make the decision!

    There are those who are loving the ideas of the “pass this jobs bill” and of course they are mostly Democrats. As a Republican, I find nothing out of the ordinary in Obama’s ideas other than Social Security and Medicare taxes being cut in half for both the employee and the employer who must match these taxes—FICA tax if you will. I do like this option, because as a small business owner, I can tell you IRS employee 941 taxes are what most business owners default on first because they can’t afford to pay them in this economy and the IRS seems a lot farther away (literally) than vendors and your landlord.

    But what about the other ideas that came with the “pass this jobs bill”--and I promise that’s the last time I’ll write it since we all heard it ourselves seventeen times during THE SPEECH.

    Some ideas don’t really seem original and here is where the problem lies I think. Hire a veteran—duh! Hire those who have been unemployed for at least six months—duh! Extend unemployment benefits for those who can’t find a job—duh! Haven’t we heard all of these before on how to create jobs? Nothing new or noteworthy here folks, the same old blah, blah, blah.

    So, the man gets booed from the Republicans and actually, because the night of September 8, 2011 was the beginning of the National Football League season with a night game where the Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers played the prior year’s winner, the New Orleans Saints, there was much hoopla on whether some Republican representatives would even show up for the speech—what’s more popular here? The President or football? I’ll stick with football.

    I like to look at Obama as a project manager who knows he can spark some crowd interest if he throws in something new and never tried before while offering his people some of the tried and true—these leaders, in my opinion usually go a little further if only for the attempt they make in offering something different.

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    Turn the Boos to Kudos

    New Iideas can be well received If you’re a project manager facing the challenge of swinging votes to go your way, you do need a little bit of both the old and the new and innovative.

    Perry relies on what’s working, and you can convince teams and stakeholders to agree with what’s already been done without problems—well at least here’s to hoping none of those 234 people were innocent. But if you follow Perry’s path to the letter, no one will be too impressed but some teams do like to work in a familiar environment.

    On the other hand, if you like Obama, you can throw something new into the project to spark the attention of your team while leaving in a little bit of the tried and true.

    Either will work as long as you're persuasive in making your case. I must say, I don’t harbor much hope for the creation of new jobs because it’s an added expense to employers and, right now, they simply can’t afford to pay salaries or even half of those matched FICA taxes—but it’s a good idea and as I said, it is something new and very different, so Obama gets a Grade A on this one.

    As far as Perry and his gift of the audience cheers on the death penalty, tax payers don’t want to pay for death row inmates year after year. They want their just desserts once the appeal process is over and that’s what Texas promises time after time.

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    What’s Working for You?

    I’d really like to know what’s working for you when it comes to ruling over your teams and enticing every single stakeholder to jump on board with your ideas as soon as you toss them out.

    Do you mix old methodologies with new ideas or do you stick with the same old ideas and convince teams what’s worked has always worked and you’re not about to change now.

    Drop me a comment—I really am curious and actually surprised that as a Republican, I'm siding with President Obama on this one!