Here we go on another project journey. You have met with your stakeholders and all of them are in agreement as to where the project is going (objectives), what the journey will look like to get to the project’s destination (plan), and what can be expected when the project is complete (deliverables). But wait, your project (like a journey in a car) has been taken over by somebody else and is now out of your control. You have just found yourself in the back seat (no longer driving and in control) of the Project Idiot Mobile. You discover quickly that it is careening out of control and you are on a white-knuckle ride to who knows where. What do you do?
I have taken a ride in the Idiot Mobile more than once and here are some tips you can use to avoid this mind-numbing ride.
Be the Leader of the Team From the Start. Control the keys of the Idiot Mobile and don’t let anyone drive it and make sure you always leave it in the garage. Don’t assume anything unless it is documented in your project charter’s assumptions section. Don't allow stakeholders to take over your project and direct it onto a path that wasn't agreed upon in the Project Charter.
Understand Politics is a Way of Life on Your Project. Understand you will have to deal with people who don't want you to succeed. As Tom Peters said be aware that your project can fail because of "...people that are envious, people who feel their turf is being invaded, people who have a b-i-g stake in the status quo, people who are just plain afraid of change. Therefore, you will need ... Herculean (Clintonian) political skills to ... neutralize ... finesse...and in some cases just plain outsmart-surround-co opt ... these naysayers".
Have Thick Skin. Be smart up front and try to recognize who will be unsupportive of your efforts. Be prepared with a response. Be able to accept criticism and bounce back quickly. Know when you are on the wrong path and get on the right path quickly.
Make Strong Allies with Those that Have the Power. Remember that those with the power make the decisions. A good project manager is a good politician, and also keep in mind that Politics is The Art of Getting Things Done.