Eliminating Political Correctness

Eliminating Political Correctness

Here is a real-life scenario: You are working on a big, complex project and there are weekly status meetings with all the stakeholders.  Most of your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are doing a great job.  Bob from the Sales team is there to make sure the CRM’s business requirements are represented and all integration touch points are addressed.  The problem is Bob does not really understand how the CRM works.  He never plans to use the system you are designing around the CRM and, quite frankly, doesn’t care much for your project and rarely comes to the meetings.  The really bad news is that Bob thinks he is a gifted CRM expert.  At what point do you as CIO, Project Manager, or Leader call Bob out on his attitude, attendance, and involvement?  Let’s face it, we are in this Politically Correct world and taking Bob to task in the status meeting or in a one-off would hurt Bob’s feelings.  Moreover, Bob’s manager thinks the world of Bob and will battle you if you say otherwise.  What do you do?

You have a few options:

  • Tolerate Bob’s behavior, document the deliverables he misses or mails in (half-hearted attempts). Then wait for the project to end.  If everything works, great.  No harm, no foul.  When Bob’s portion of the project goes badly, pull out your documentation and throw Bob under the bus.
  • Exclude the CRM interface from the project and report that it is “just not ready”. Push that piece of the project to phase 2.  Hope for a new Bob.
  • Call Bob out anyway. Risk the flogging you may get from Bob and his manager, and replace Bob with a more qualified SME.  Clearly, Bob did not deserve the “E” in SME anyway.

Here is the risk of doing either of the first 2 options.  As CIO, or Project Manager, your job is to successfully complete your project; all of you project.  If Bob is boat anchor, say it.  He may be a great guy and very talented in other areas.  Let him go do them.

Your job is success not gathering excuses for failure.

Peoples feeling are going to get hurt.  Be empathetic.  Be kind.  But please be direct and honest with Bob, with his manager, and with the team.  There are ways to cut Bob loose from the project without burning the bridge.  They are looking to you for leadership.  Provide it.  This is not Facebook.  You can’t give Bob a “like” and move on hoping he’ll go away.  You have to establish your policies right up front.  Eliminate Political Correctness from meetings, from correspondence and from conversation – right from the start.  It means you announce at the first meeting that the weekly meetings are “Political Correctness Free” Zones.   If you have something to say, say it.  If you are late with deliverable, admit it.  If someone is not carrying their weight, tell them to pick it up or assign a delegate.   That does not mean you behave rudely, just honestly.  Your Sr. Leadership Team will have no problem calling you to task for failed projects.  Right?

Our workforce would be a lot stronger and tougher if everyone was treated fairly, but directly.  Our kids will too.  Sometimes project members need a little parenting and tough love.  Please don’t give Bob a participation trophy.  It’s not fair to the SMEs staying late to help make your project a success.