Ducks and Bunnies

In one of my previous positions as a project manager, I had to present materials in a new weekly forum to a handful of senior executives.  I had put a draft together for my manager and mentor at the time, who quickly suggested to me that the information needed to be drastically more simple: “Ducks and bunnies,” he said.  This message has always stuck with me and has allowed me to become a very effective communicator of project data, especially when I’m introducing new information.  Regardless of the direction in which I’m communicating; upward, downward, or externally, delivering my messages successfully has since been purposefully one of my most practiced skill sets.  I am a Gantt Artist. Continue reading

Presenting projects with your audience in mind: The Corporate Executive (3/4)

In the previous post, we discussed how to present to project managers. This week’s post will discuss the preparation of schedule conversations for corporate executives.

Corporate Executives

At this level, how does the project manager relate to corporate executives, convince, and illicit a decision? Looking at the characteristics of a corporate executive group is a starting point.

  • The corporate executive team is usually familiar with each other, their roles, and the “political” component surrounding their relationships. Recognizing this first characteristic and knowing that you may not be aware of all the detail is a note of caution when addressing a corporate executive team.
  • The project manager is presenting to a group which, organizationally, is higher in status. Expect that their view of the organization is different, perhaps more global in nature, and certainly conditioned by their level of responsibility. Respect that. Know that you are there to inform, convince, get your decision, and get on with it.
  • At a high level again, your goals and objectives need to fit with the corporate executive’s goals and objectives. Know where you and your project fit. Know how you contribute to the corporate executive team’s success.
  • Be aware that there may be different cultural norms at the corporate executive level. The terms of reference may be slightly changed, and discussions between equals and non-equals may have slight nuances. Remember, you are not a “card carrying member” here so you have to earn respect and trust.
  • At the corporate executive level, you ARE the spokesperson for your team. This position requires a projection of confidence and that confidence is gained through preparation and the application relevance, clarity, and credibility; the Gantt Art process.

Applying Gantt Art

The presentation to corporate executives requires more preparation, more fact checking, more attention to proposed alternatives for dealing with issues, and careful consideration of visual presentation aids. Since schedule is perhaps the most focused upon leg of project management’s “three-legged stool,” preparation for dealing with schedule questions is most important. Here the three attributes of the Gantt Art process serve well. Taking the characteristics of the audience into consideration, as best you can, the Gantt Art process tells us to:

  • Weed out irrelevant information, focus attention on the key issues;
  • Make sure that displayed information is clear, and within context; and
  • Be prepared to stand by your facts.

Again, Back to Basics

Without achieving some high score on these three, you may fail to achieve the focus on the issues that your schedule conversation intended. Once achieving that focus, based upon first making a credible impression, you will be able to move forward toward agreement and the desired decision. Look at this example and compare it back to the example in Part 2. The visual is high level, clearly shows the current situation, and highlights three areas for the schedule conversation.

The audience characteristics we’ve noted above should give you a leg up when presenting your project to corporate executives. However, nothing takes the place of “on-deck” experience with presentations at this level.

Some are fortunate to be apprentice to real masters, and can watch how they operate. Most project managers find themselves thrown into the “lion’s den” with no previous experience to guide them. Regardless, the three attributes of the Gantt Art process (relevance, clarity, and credibility) apply no matter the level of the schedule conversation.

In the final segment of this series, we’ll consider presentations to the client. Hope to see you then and looking forward to your comments and inputs.