February 2009: Full Contact Project Management


February 2009

Full Contact Project Management

Masonry Magazine

project management

Are you Working Like a Dog?

January’s column was all about your decision to do everything it takes to weather all the hope and the changes (some might call them storms) on our horizon. But the question is, “How?” Then I realized that it’s doggone simple. So simple that even a dog can recognize it. And, as if to prove the point, Olivia the Wonder Dog shows the way.

Here’s why I appreciate what Coach Olivia has for us this time. (See the August 2008 issue of Masonry for her first lesson.)

During that first lesson, we saw these parallels: Golden Retrievers are born to retrieve; project managers exist to keep the project on track. An owner throws a ball, and the retriever instantly begins to fetch; a client throws a curve, and the PM instantly reacts — at least he should.

Coach Gary says:

“Winning or losing this year is strictly up to you!”

Coach Gary says:

“Wonder dogs are like guide dogs: They show us the way.”

Coach Gary says:

“Sometimes we think that we have to be rocket scientists, when all we really have to do is be able to think about as deeply as a dog does.”

Coach Gary promises:

“Adopt this attitude, and you’ll at least stop the bleeding that working for free is costing your projects.”

Coach Gary says:

“This is your year. Move to the head of your pack, because the pack can use a leader, and the timid don’t want the job.”

That’s how the Wonder Dog always reacts. But she is also proactive. For instance, when she wants to play, she will bring her toy to me. As a matter of fact, she will persistently bring her toy to me. She never seems to tire of it and won’t relent until I agree to play with her. The only way to avoid this is to go to a different room or put her outside.

As a PM, of course, we have to react when the client throws something our way. But sometimes we see an opportunity, a fleeting chance at something that our project wants or needs. And, we have to take action. Here’s where Olivia’s newest lesson comes in and makes an impact on our projects for 2009.

Three big lessons:


  • Why is it that I would tolerate having a dog that only wants to play and fetch? The easiest answer is that I love my dog, and I realize that dogs are just that way. They don’t want to play with people they don’t like. So, I take it as a compliment.
  • Why would our client agree to tolerate our constant, unending questions about what we are supposed to do? That’s the way the relationship is. Right there in the project specs: If I have a question, I must put it into writing and the client is required to respond to it. I am not limited to how many questions I can ask. It depends on how much stuff the project runs into ‚Äî stuff that is, apparently, not covered in the specs. Hey, it shows I’m taking an interest in his project.
  • The client is not permitted to ignore us. He would do so at his own peril and his own cost. But, he won’t ignore you if you always ask your question (RFI) in a professional manner with a good attitude and a smile.



Just as Olivia always reminds me that I have an obligation to pay attention to her every time she comes to me, the contract documents remind the client that he has a similar obligation and must pay attention to me every time.

Last month my suggestion was that we all do more than just hope. Make a change in order to survive or prosper this year. Coach is going to take his own advice: My new site has been re-designed to give PMs even more help than before, and a lot of it still free for your asking. I’m even taking on a few new coaching clients ‚Äî PMs and company owners who want to get their businesses to the next level.

So, find the “Olivia” in your life. Maybe it is your dog. Maybe it’s your friend, or a supplier, possibly even a competitor with a great work ethic. Get a coach. Become inspired by the simple actions that will make or break you this year.

Visionaries will make things happen, and you have to be included in this group. Avoid the other group ‚Äî the doom-and-gloomers. You know where you are going. After all, you have Wonder Dog to guide you, and Coach Gary to show you the way. Maybe it ain’t easy, but it is simple.

Coach Gary’s Corner:

Ready to get back into the game? Get the five-part mini-series on RFIs and change orders. The best athletes use coaches. How about you? Get a coach to take you to the next level. You need a process. Masonry readers get this for free at . Click on the link near the top of the page. Check out the free audio updates and other info that will help your projects, and get Coach Gary’s book, “Get Paid for a Change!”

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