In Part 1 of this blog post I objected to the use of a time-worn technique in project management and consulting of under promising and over delivering, attempting to “fool” the client into being delighted with our above-and-beyond performance. As Alan Weiss stated in his book, Million-Dollar Consulting, “the corollary for the client would be to over demand and underpay.”
I’ve witnessed the corollary many times. Often the client’s Project Manager is not well-versed in managing scope, or managing resources, or sticking to project timelines. It is incumbent on our Project Manager to educate the client and deliver according to what we proposed. But what happens when the client really does not heed the agreement between our two parties, and continues to expect and demand more while threatening to pay less or to penalize us?
Several years ago, one of the consulting companies for which I worked won a major bid. It was hard fought, and our proposal team felt they had provided an excellent solution for a fair price, and that the project team could deliver what was proposed. Our senior executive flew in to meet our new client’s executive, and to put ink to the final contract. No sooner had he bundled his copy of the contract into his briefcase and gone back to Corporate; no sooner had the client executive management driven back to their uptown offices; than the client’s Project Manager turned to our Project Manager and said, “My job is to make sure that you lose money on this project.” And for the next four years, she made good on her promise. I’m recalling now that we went through three project managers, assisted by four project delivery executives and two senior corporate VPs, before both sides declared a truce and terminated the contract. The sad result: the project failed and the client did not get its system.
I wasn’t close enough to the early days of the project to understand all that transpired, which resulted in the ultimate failure of this project. But as project management professionals we must be alert to attitudes and behavioral styles of our client counterparts at all times. Could this situation have been prevented? Perhaps, if our Project Manager had alerted his management of what had been said so that they could have responded to trouble signs early in the project.
As deceitful as I believe the tactic of under promising and over delivery is, a client that over demands is equally harmful to ultimate project success. Ultimately, however, if we are to deliver according to our promise – even over deliver where we can – it is obligatory for us as Project Managers/consultants to heed the human aspects of project management.
 Weiss, Alan Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice. 1992. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998, p. 52. Print.
 The case studies in this article are used for illustrative purposes only, and are based on the author’s first-hand knowledge and/or actual experiences. However, names, locations, dates, and even some circumstances may be changed to maintain the anonymity of the organizations and individuals involved.
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