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When No One Else Cares

Ok. You are finally in the meeting you have been trying to assemble. Mostly, the attendees were invited to round out the roster at the beckoning of the only senior exec in the room. They wish they could be somewhere else and sincerely fear they may be asked to contribute. They don't much face time with this exec and he is extremely intimidating. Previous encounters with him have been less than desirable.

Your pre-published agenda is clear and precise. The objectives are stated clearly and the required decision points are well-documented. There is no uncertainty about what needs to accomplished in the next hour. The exec is clearly disengaged. He has not dedicated any time to understanding the project. He doesn't actually want to know. He was forced into the sponsorship role by his senior who also does not want to know. This is a corporate project without support.

But the deadlines are still there and are very real.

The contract specifies you are obligated to "bring this project home on time on budget" but no one else is involved. None of the immediate management are engaged and none actually care. When they don't care, their reports don't care. When the reports don't care, you have no one to work with and no one to ensure that they will.

So.. back to the meeting. You open the meeting by covering the agenda that everyone already has in their possession. You don't even finish describing the action items when the exec completely digresses to a minor discussion regarding reports that he wants. You do your best to bring the focus back to the agenda but he "doesn't care about any of that". He "just wants" his reports. You tell him that discussing his reports is a side bar conversation and he erupts. He tells you, in a heated manner, that you do not understand his requirements and that is why he does not want to be part of a project that does not consider his needs, He stands up and storms out of the room.

It happens. Everyday, it happens to people who are so prepared to lead the client to the promised land. But you cannot lead the unwilling.

How can you counter this situation? How can you resolve the conflict?

Facts. Documentation. Communication. These are the only real tools you have.

Facts. Make sure you understand the facts about every aspect of your area of responsibility. Know the objectives. Know the scope. Know the people. Know the outcomes. Know the current status. Stay informed. Never guess. Never fabricate.

Documentation. Document everything. Inbound information. Interview information. Model designs. Test results. Conversations. Keep a thorough log of documentation.

Communication. Let everyone involved know about everything. Do not keep any secrets. Do not make excuses for anyone. Communicate the documented facts.

If anyone disputes you, you have all the backup you need. Actually, they should already have that information. There should be no misunderstanding. No lack of knowledge. No surprises.

If you keep all the documented facts in from of the entire project team, there will be no way you can be held responsible for a project that does not work.

Someone will always try to "pass the buck" but you will be prepared. If the project fails, it will not fail because of you.