Glen Alleman’s blog is one of my favourites. His direct no-nonsense approach is like fresh air in a sea of mediocrity. I have recently had some exchange of comments on his blog regarding the importance of processes to successfully achieving objectives. During our conversation Glen made the following observation which I found particularly well articulated:

I’ve come to realize one major difference between success and not-success is that in successful organizations there are consequences.

In the absence of consequences, no real progress can be made. When there are bad processes or bad responses to good processes and there are no consequences, then nothing changes and we read about how both sides blame the other.

The reason I got so emotionally attached to that comment is that it reminded me of an e-mail exchange I once had with a Project Director who, in a hindsight, lacked communication skills and could not take constructive criticism (or, in a nut-shell, was himself a living example of the Peter Principle in force).

So here’s a bit of background.

This Project Director (let’s call him PD) sent out an email to a large audience where he detailed the roles and responsibilities of his team (constituting of a number of Program Managers) and explaining that their respective responsibilities included things like “Projects and program execution”, “Stakeholder Management”, “Meeting Customer Expectations” and “Delivery Assurance”.

That’s all sounds very well if not for the minor simple issue being that I knew that whatever he was saying did not represent the reality and that program management activities were not done in a satisfactory way.

So I sent him a reply and this is what I said:

Hello PD and thank you for your e-mail.

I appreciate the content of your e-mail and would like to suggest, without prejudice, that from my perspective there is very little visibility or evidence to suggest that program level management is carried out in an effective way. Having been involved with the XXXX and YYYY projects, and also been indirectly involved with the ZZZZ project, I can’t say I’ve seen program management outputs which will indicate that the IT Program of work is done in a coordinated way, and that cross project risks and dependencies are properly managed.

I admit that given my role I might not have been privy nor had the exposure to that level of information, and if this was the case, I would unreservedly be happy to withdraw my comments above.

Now let’s look at the reply:

Shim,

If you are going be critical then please do so with a balanced context and a full understanding of the facts.   There is universal agreement that problems were encountered with the two projects you have listed.  The reasons are multi-faceted and not as simplistic as your email would indicate.   If you have ideas on how project delivery can be improved going forward, then my team would be happy to discuss with you.  I however will not accept this kind of unbalanced out of context criticism.

Now, I know my e-mail has been heavyhanded, biased and grossly inappropriate, but do you think the PD’s reply was what you would expect from someone who carries a major responsibility to a substantial body of IT work? Does it not suggest that this guy has simply lost any appreciation of his responsibility and that nor he neither his direct reports are likely to face the consequences for their incompetency?

You be the judge, just think about it!

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