How do you become a great hostage negotiator in FBI ?

Train to become a project manager and if you don’t get to the top of the class , apply for the hostage negotiator role at FBI 🙂

I am joking of course – but when I look back at my own career where I have managed projects, the skill that made me successful was my ability to negotiate . Since then I have moved on to other things, but the people who have my respect the most are the folks who lead successful delivery of projects . Time and again , I have seen that people who have PM roles succeed or fail depending on their negotiation skills

If there is one role that I think is even harder than that of a project manager – it’s that of a product manager . These poor souls usually have zero authority and all the responsibility to get things done . But I digress … let’s get back to project managers

The negotiation experience starts before you even win the work . There are some great PMs who are always in demand . Everyone wants them . These PMs know what is in store once they say yes to a project – and start negotiating with the sales team , top management etc to make sure they are front and center from the beginning of the sales process so that undeliverable stuff doesn’t get promised ( or god forbid get written into actual contracts ) . Not all PMs are that lucky

What is the first law of projects ?

It’s like laws of physics – you have to take it as a given. Entire discipline of project management is based on the fact that you can’t outrun Murphy’s law . Agile vs Waterfall doesn’t matter – Mr.Murphy is an equal opportunity flame thrower . You will rarely have easy decisions . You need to be ready to make “lesser evil” decisions all the time . It’s a “character building ” exercise 🙂

What is the second law of projects ?

I am just going to call it Vijay’s law till someone else lays claim to it – it states “all problems are caused by people and hence all solutions also are about people” . Stack the deck in your favor with the best people for each role whenever you can . Technology , budget etc are all people problems ultimately !

What is the third law of projects ?

Bad news doesn’t get better with time . Communicate bad news earlier than later . What makes stakeholders cranky is not usually failure – it’s the thought that they could have done something to stop the problem if only they knew sooner . Try hard to not surprise people to the extent the first law of projects let you . That’s half the battle .

What is the fourth law of projects ?

Take all the help that is available when offered , and keep asking for more when you need it . Heroics are unavoidable in many projects – but do t let that be the first solution option .

What is the fifth law of projects ?

Know the contract , but don’t use it as a daily weapon in the project . Your job is to make sure everyone involved understand what is the problem to be solved and why it is a problem that needs to be solved . PMs who don’t understand the WHY usually fail . Knowing the WHY also helps frame the deviation from scope , funding and timeline in the proper context 

What is the sixth law of projects ?

The current project is always the worst project ever ! It will look ok after you have moved on to the next project . In other words , remember that projects have end dates and hence don’t panic on every small thing that happens in day to day execution . I have had absolute nightmare projects – and now I can joke about it .

That’s all there is to it … don’t sweat it 🙂


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

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