Sheilina Somani, RPP, FAPM, PMP, is the owner
of the U.K.-based consultancy Positively Project
Management, a senior project manager, a
speaker and a mentor.
It’s almost a requirement of every project manager to boldly go into new territory. Recently, it
was my turn to fulfill this requirement. As scary
as it can be to journey into uncharted waters, I
learned that knowing whom to petition for help
and resources can ensure smooth sailing.
A senior sponsor asked me to establish a dialogue between two IT teams about viable strategies for the global implementation of a software
system that respected the organization’s current
IT infrastructure. The outcome of this dialogue
was critical to a program that I’m responsible for.
The challenge was my knowledge is largely in data
integrity, legal data storage requirements, speed
and performance from an experienced user per-
spective. I voiced
my concerns to
the senior sponsor,
tasked me with the
responsibility. But I
knew I needed help.
I called a meeting
with 10 very technical, experienced
individuals (to add
some authority to
the request, I used
the sponsor’s name).
Though I dreaded
this meeting, it soon
became an animated
the experts and me.
I asked for help on
to explaining new terms. At the end of the meeting,
I confirmed with the experts what I’d summarized
from the day and scheduled a subsequent session to
conclude findings. I was appreciative when everyone
turned up to the follow-up session, on time, with
more opinions, research and suggestions.
By being honest about my lack of knowledge
about IT infrastructure, I had provided these individuals full permission to contribute, challenge and
advise me to ensure my understanding before writing a recommendation and influencing a sponsor
decision. The sponsor was extremely pleased with
the progress and eventual outcome, and so was I.
Even though I initially resisted the task, following
through with it meant everyone gained something
from the experience. I learned the sponsor has
confidence in me. I got to know a completely new
group of people with skills vastly different from my
own that I can go to for help and guidance. The
group members learned from one another, appreciating the opportunity to collaborate and engage
in problem resolution.
As project managers, we have to communicate
with people across a multitude of disciplines. Not
only does it give us the opportunity to garner
multiple contributions and put them toward the
project goal, but this communication also encourages our own professional progress while growing
our network. In this case, my acting as a facilitator
for these meetings between IT teams—rather than
project lead—not only fostered dialogue and cooperation between the two teams, it also expanded
my own knowledge, network and range of skills,
and taught me again about the benefits of honesty
and seeking help.
Most significantly, we delivered a collaborative,
comprehensive report to fulfill the sponsor
requirement. When another opportunity comes to
work with this particular group, I’ll be the first
to volunteer. PM
When tasked with a project in an
unfamiliar industry, remember that
you don’t have to go it alone.
BY SHEILINA SOMANI, RPP, FAPM, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR