It's a Project Manager's World Newsletter with Dr. James Brown
      July 2010 Full Moon Edition      


Should a Leader Repeat Themselves?

 I had the opportunity to hear Michele Markham, CIO of HD Supply speak on July 22, 1010. Her talk was both informative and interesting. She spoke about her management philosophy and how she dealt with the challenges of consolidating HD Supply’s information systems, given that it is a combination of a number of businesses.

Michele said many valuable things but this newsletter will focus on one statement she made. “She has learned that repeating herself is necessary. She says the same thing at every project meeting.” How many times has something gone awry and you know…I mean you know you told them "how to avoid calamity" or "not to go down that path" or" this is the the project direction" or whatever.

Sure you told them.
But did you tell them again and again?

We hate to repeat ourselves. Since we were small children we are taught not to repeat ourselves. It is considered crude, rude and condescending. People are always very quick to say “You already told me that” or they give you that look. Additionally when you know you are repeating yourself you feel like you are boring others and frankly often feel bored yourself.

Tom Hopkins said “Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you” I say “Repeat it to your team/organization often enough and it will start to sink in” Consider the following excerpt from my book, "The Handbook of Program Management

… Therefore it is the role of the program manager to reiterate the vision and why and how the tasks and current plan relate to that vision. This is a continual effort and has to be performed repeatedly. Additionally, the program manager must make sure that project managers understand this and relate this to their project teams. In the rowing sport of sculling a coxswain sits at the front of the boat oar less but has to steer the boat, motivate the crew, make the crew aware of where they are in the race and make the tactical calls for the race. To maximize performance the coxswain’s job is to continually set course direction and cadence to ensure the crew performs well as a team. Program managers are challenged to develop a stable culture in a dynamic and changing environment. The crystal clear communication of program vision is an anchor that helps stabilize the program culture. It is very detrimental to assume people will remember the vision and the overall purpose of the program, project or their task. People get so wrapped up in their near term deliverables and challenges that overall vision and purpose is often forgotten when it is a key element to the decision processes that must take place on a daily basis.”

 So repeat yourself! 

 Do not feel guilty…ignore the bored expressions. Somebody needs to hear it again, somebody didn’t hear it the first time, and somebody won’t think you are serious if they just hear it a few times. Continually set course direction.


Michele also said “She was concerned about retaining great talent.” As the economy is turning around those companies recovering fastest tend to raid those recovering at a slower pace. She also mentioned “because of her finance background that everyone should understand the financial aspects of their role and project.” This is tried and true advice not just for the benefit of the project and the company but career wise as well. When I speak on career management or counsel people on it I always tell them you need to know your organization's finances as well as the finance people so you can speak their language and they know you speak their language.

Dr. James T. Brown, author The Handbook of Program Management - McGraw-Hill



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