Categorized | Management

Can the Project Manager ever say no to the customer

As we put in our article – 5 ways in which a client can ruin a project – customers can be a disruptive influence in the successful execution of a project – in particular where elements such as requirements, schedules, funding etc are not robust.
We all know that projects can be an iterative process – most project managers have to live with at least some change. However a constant level of change (or multiple occurrence of major change) can result in the project being moved entirely of course.
What might this change be? There can be various examples
• Changes to scope
• Reducing available resources
• Removing mandate
• Changing requirements
• Changing measurement of success
• Refusing to accept milestone completion
• Contractual or commercial issues
• Payment issues
As we stated above, most if not all projects are somewhat iterative – perhaps a new requirement is identified, perhaps, through the project process the team is informed of something that requires a change in direction but when it becomes continuous or the change is not in the interest of completing the project to a successful completion – the project has two choices.
• Accept them, keep quiet and hope it all turns out ok
• Say “no” and refuse for the change to be integrated within the project
The mechanics of saying “no” are perhaps understandably not always easy, both from a how do I voice it and will it affect my position perspective.
There is never an easy answer however if the project manager believes that something is the detriment to the project then they are there to say so.
Being critical of the customer request can be career limiting (to say the least) so perhaps rather than merely saying no, there are other methods of sweetening the response. Where another method could be used to achieve the same results validate the customer statement and offer up an alternative “whilst that is one option – I’d like to investigate this alternative”. Ensure that the customer understands the ramifications of their decisions – what are the schedule, cost and quality implications.
Be prepared however to scrutinize your negative response – discuss the customer requirement with the project team, what might seem initially impossible may be solvable in a group setting consider:
• Do you have resources who can work on the requirement
• Is the work clearly articulated
• What is the schedule impact
• Is any material required?
• What is the impact on the quality of the deliverable.

Change can be frustrating especially when it appears impossible. Project managers, in the right circumstances should never be afraid of saying no. The Project Manager is the ultimate custodian of the project – if something is going to adversely affect the deliverable then they should not be afraid of voicing their opinions. Clearly the customer is paying for the project and there is the adage that the customer is always right and clearly ensuring the customer is satisfied is important – however there is also a need to execute the job both professionally and successfully and on occasion this involves saying no.

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