As a project manager, you probably deal with bad news on a near-daily basis. Don’t you wish you would have your client call you up out of the blue just to say “Everything’s great, just wanted to let you know”? Unfortunately that’s not a reality most of us project managers live within. But the news isn’t all bad (pun well intended) – here are my top three benefits of delivering bad news.
One of the values of a good project manager is transparency with stakeholders. You can’t deliver a successful project without trust from your sponsorship and the best way to establish and maintain that trust is through open and transparent communications. The second you appear as to be hiding or concealing anything, the trust level almost immediately evaporates and is incredibly difficult to get back. By delivering your bad news to your stakeholder in a timely fashion will help maintain that level of transparency. Your stakeholders will appreciate the openness and this will in turn help further cement that trusting relationship.
Freedom to Pivot and Re-plan
Every problem requires a solution. More often than getting bad news on a project management level will require some sort of plan to remedy the issue. A lot of times this requires the support of management or your project sponsor (hence the transparency) but it also requires some latitude and freedom afforded to the project manager in order to make the right decisions to address the problem. Staying the course on a failing project is an almost guaranteed way to ensure failure. By being able to respond and pivot towards a new direction that will provide a better chance for success, the project manager is doing exactly what they are paid to do!
How many nights of sleep are lost to unresolved issues by project managers? A stressed out project manager is far less effective than one who is focused and empowered to make decisions and adjustments to push the project towards success. By clearing the cloud of uncertainty around sponsor and management reactions to bad news, the project manager is able to focus solely on what they are paid to do – bring the project to a successful outcome.
Bad news is never fun and can lead to exponentially more challenging issues if not handled promptly. One of the values at my workplace is ‘Bad news does not get better with time’ which really helps drive home the message that problems will not take care of themselves but need swift and decisive action. By delivering the bad news as soon as reasonably possible, you’re setting the stage for your project team and sponsorship to be much more agile in being able to adjust the project’s course and steer it towards success.
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