I have heard this quote or something similar before... Bad ideas sometimes win because of the skills of the communicator. So true. Loud wins. Crazy sometimes wins. Obnoxious wins far too often. And manipulators sometimes win because they are very good at it. What do they all have in common? The ability to be loud. And that can be meant figuratively. So, more accurately, the ability to be heard above the others. Think of it like voting and you pick a candidate simply because you remember seeing their name often on those stupid little signs in people's yards. It should probably be the reason not to vote for them, but they are hoping the reverse is true...and it often is.
Think of it almost as a different take on “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” only from a different angle. And a more dangerous angle. Why? Because the squeaky wheel one is the complainer. Everyone knows who that is and they appease them by giving them what they want. Sometimes that’s one of my two year olds. Sometimes that was our oldest daughter, but she's married now. Always that was one of our lead developers at my first employer. But the ‘bad ideas’ one…that’s way more dangerous because that could be anyone on any project team in the history of project management or any project manager in the history of project management offices or….well, you get the picture.
You know those times when you gather your team on a weekly basis for the internal project status meeting to prepare for the customer meeting or call? Sometimes there’s a critical decision to make or solutions that need to be brainstormed in order to offer the best one to the customer. If someone on the team is the best communicator, they may be able to make their bad idea sound like the best one through a nicely disguised sales pitch. Good talkers can squeeze anything through. They manipulate even when they may not realize they’re manipulating. And they make their bad idea sound so good that everyone agrees with it either because it’s been oversold or because they just want to get back to real work. That’s the dangerous part.
How do we avoid these situations? It isn’t easy, but if you follow these three steps you may be able to avoid letting most bad ideas slip through the cracks to become part of the end solution.
Discuss things in detail with your team – avoid rash decisions whenever possible. As the project manager, you may not always recognize a bad idea. However, when enough time is allowed for discussion and reflection, the bad ideas usually find a way to sink to the bottom and the good ideas rise to the top. Don’t allow rash decisions to be made by the group. Think of the idea of counting to ten before saying something negative. By the time you reach ten, you realize it probably shouldn’t be said.
Remember who is really running the project. Remember who the project manager is. That’s the team leader…the person with the target on their forehead for the success of the project. The one who’s door the CEO will knock on if things go poorly. The project manager should be the one making the final call. And if that’s you, hopefully you have a good idea of what constitutes a bad idea for your project and what a good idea would be. Carefully consider decisions – especially if you have time to make good ones under pressure.
Wait 24 hours. Seriously. I realize that this may be a luxury on most projects – if you have any extra time at all, sleep on it. Discuss it as a team, but wait till the next meeting or possibly a follow-up meeting to make the final decision. Most bad ideas fall by the wayside when given enough time and thought.
Summary / call for input
The project manager ultimately is responsible for the project and is in that position for a reason. Let the PM weigh in on the final decision. And hopefully, they are the best communicator on the team anyway. Avoid making quick decisions without proper discussion when possible.
What about our readers? What are your thoughts about avoiding letting bad ideas slip through and take over? What do you do to slow down and ensure ideas are analyze and acted upon when they make sense and avoided when they don't make sense?