The human emotion is at the core of everything we do
A very complex proof of concept project. New E-Commerce technology being implemented by my company, as the Software Vendor to a large German systems Integrator, for a very large German client. The integrator had won the business on the back of our award-winning solution, and as such we had to lead the technical implementation since we had the experience and knowhow. This created an awkward position between my role, as the Vendor Project Manager and the Integrators lead, Senior Project Manager Helga, (not her real name). The culture would usually have had Helga as the clear lead for the integration project, however with the new technology it was down to me to ensure the overall success. Helga took the approach to micromanage everything, myself included. She wanted to attend every meeting with me and be copied on every email, and to end each day with a meeting to summarize anything that she had missed. This approach was stifling and counter-productive to actually making progress. Something had to change. I suggested an evening meeting and we sat in a conference room with our laptops turned off, and we talked... and talked.
The context for Helga was that she felt she was already under pressure with her company, she had been a Project Manager for a number of years inside a very male oriented environment. She felt she continually had to try harder, work longer hours and achieve more… and I was a threat as the approach was new and different, to match the technology.
It took a number of discussions to win her trust and for her to fully understand that my role was to deliver the technology, support the associated business changes, in delivery approach within her company as integrator, and also support the clients new business process as the end user. As the Software Vendor we had no remit to try an oust the integrator, it was absolutely not part of the business model we were following, however her insecurity led her to feel that we were a threat to her individual standing and position.
The solution came as I was able to adapt her perspective on the whole project organization. Helga was clearly the Project Manager lead for the whole project, my role was to be her shadow, as a servant leader and support her in whatever way I could to ensure the success of the Project. I was advisor, educator, mentor, researcher and eventually trusted confidante. Once this new context was understood and in place the whole mood of the project improved. We were focused together on results, solving problems and eliminating risks, all with the joint mission to deliver… which we did. The result was a confirmed order for our software solution, a large integration project won for Helga and one very large, very pleased end client. Win-Win-Win.