Being generally agreeable is a good thing. Being easy to work with – also a good thing. Being flexible is a good thing. Having a very positive attitude…definitely a very good thing. Always saying “Yes.” Think of all the problems that can bring you.
I remember when my wife and I were first dating and she was annoyed that I never disagreed with her. She finally told me some 30 years later, and she probably regrets that day, but the thing is you can’t always be a ‘yes’ man. Conflict is good from time to time and as far as customers go, it’s simply not a good idea to always agree with them.
Too much agreement with your team
It’s great to have a smooth flowing, cohesive project team. When everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals with a common vision it’s amazing what can be accomplished. The danger lies in falling into a trap where ongoing success keeps us from constantly reviewing work and deliverables to ensure quality, from questioning the tough decisions, and from checking in with our team members regularly to make sure we’re all on the same track. It’s easy to get in a groove of success where we assuming everything is fine because we aren’t seeing or hearing anything negative. It’s during those times where the project manager can mindlessly agree with project team members and the team as a whole without thinking or questioning what is being discussed or decided.
Avoid the ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality or ‘don’t mess with success’ thought process. Even when great success is being realized and there seem to be no bumps in the road, we still must be good leaders and examine our processes and make sure we are still doing what’s best for the project and the customer. It’s OK to say ‘no’ – it won’t be a momentum killer. It just might save you from mindlessly agreeing with the wrong decision. It’s always the right thing to do as the project leader to ask questions before saying ‘yes.’
Too much agreement with your customer
Some project leaders find it hard to say ‘no’ to the project client. It’s their money, if they want it that way then we should do it that way, right? No. We are the experts, that’s why they are paying for our services. We aren’t being paid to be ‘yes’ men. We are being paid to successfully deliver a solution that meets a one-time or ongoing need for that project customer. And it’s also our job to verify what that need is – not just accept whatever the customer told us it is. Need a new custom-built accounting system? Maybe, but the actual need may lie deeper in the organization. The real issue may start with some of the business processes in the organization that aren’t working well with how the business has changed over the years. The project may involve a new system AND some new policies, processes and possibly the addition or elimination or retraining of some key personnel. We don’t just want to put a ring in the pig’s nose. We may also want to wash the pig, too.
It’s the project manager’s responsibility to not just agree with the ideas that are being tossed their way – no matter how good they sound or how busy the PM is. Ask tough questions, verify understanding, make sure we’re all looking out the same window and have our eyes on the same end vision for the project. Only then can we all agree on key decisions and key actions for the project. Only then can we know for sure that we are on the right path.