Using Pessimism through Optimism in ERP Implementations
Guest post by
Samik Das, Lead Consultant, Infosys
"Pessimism, when you get used to it, is just as agreeable as optimism." - Arnold Bennett
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the current project will oblige me to adopt a non-conventional way of project management. It all started last year, when I welcomed this new assignment with a big heart. We all were progressing in the very orthodox way our corporate guidelines are conscripted while initiation. To our outmost surprise the work permit process itself became a separate project, and then I started moving my focus from the standard levied processes to the clandestine ones. Very soon, I promoted "Pessimism" as the key weapon of the whole project management process. I had to undergo several iterations of self-confrontation before introducing the pessimism with a higher dose. Everyone knows that "medicines in high amount become poison" and here I was trying to induce poison in higher amount in the management process. Did the approach succeed? Yes!! Anyone will neither read the stories of people who failed in their lives nor are those published as well as promoted commercially.
Too much of optimism can be equally detrimental to the project and if not grounded in reality can result a disaster. This can lead important team players to hold their tongues when they should ideally speak up due to the fear factor of being branded as the bearer of negative vibes. At the same false optimism can degrade a leader's credibility within the team. Surprisingly, many a times this is ignored for the sake of team building, motivation and so on.
The standard tools of project management often fail to help leaders to define the ground reality. My job was to define reality, identify the potential risks, chalk out the mitigation plan, getting the consensus from relevant stakeholders and mobilize resources to achieve the same. The delicate balance between deriving the reality through pessimism and maintaining a positive outlook, thus remaining grounded has to be a virtue for leaders in complex projects. The critical success factor lies into dealing the pessimism in an optimistic way and this way a few traps from this thought process can, rather should be avoided.
- Danger of pessimism: A manager who brings forth the probable adverse situations about a project's prospects can build a negative story line for the whole team. Team members might start believing that their project is not in focus for right reasons and will be marked for failure. Instead of working hard to achieve the higher goals, they will begin looking for an escape through the nearest exit. It should be kept in mind - not to convey the darker side of the project in a pessimistic way.
- Communication Method: One should not convey the sense of doom to the respective project stakeholders and team members without a solution or plan in place. Preferred way should be conveying with the mitigation plan in place. The leaders should be able to stretch their teams without breaking them. They should be motivated by defining reality, sometimes using extreme pressures to set up an underdog as one of the dynamics.
- Share success story: Every team member loves to hear success stories, that too from a leader who has witnessed that. This keeps the moral boost high and can motivate the whole team to work together achieving the common interest.
- Limiting the transparency: We always talk about high transparency in processes, policies and so on. The reality has to be defined in a way that strikes a proper balance between accepting the bitter truths and motivating the team has to be achieved. The struggle of the leader should not be visible to the whole team, which can bring negativities within. It is the essence of true leadership.
Before I conclude, I will use Pessimism once again considering the optimistic readers' critics and my thought process compels me to define the mitigation plan to make them enjoy the reading as well. The communication will go in this way, "Hello optimistic readers, if you found my piece of writing too pessimistic, please read "Pessimism" as "Realistic Thinking" and re-read it! Hope you will enjoy in either form."
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