March 2008: Full Contact Project Management


March 2008

Full Contact Project Management

First String? Just Be at Every Practice

Gary MicheloniBy “Coach” Gary Micheloni

We’ve been talking about how you can become the quarterback your own team needs, and how you can set some new goals for yourself and your company this year. As we wrap up this idea, it occurs to me that maybe we’ve all missed the point.

You see, I made an assumption. I figured that you and everyone else would love to become the leader of your team: QB1. I thought you might want to take a higher profile in your company than what you may be used to. I would! But then, I like being up front, in charge, The Man, and the Go-to Guy. That’s me.

I know what it’s like, hoping you’ll just make the team, hoping to make the cut, wanting to be a part of a team, and wanting to be a part of a team that excels and wins championships.

Coach Gary (and the wisdom from an old Chinese fortune cookie) reminds you,

“A thousand-mile journey begins with the first step.”

Is that you? Can you see yourself in that leadership position? Do you even really want to be in that position? Are you afraid of failing or looking bad in front of others? Because the team captains and the leaders of the offense, defense and special teams stand out in front of a few people (at least) and show what they can do. Right there, as they say, in front of God and everybody.

What finally occurred to me is that almost everybody would actually like to be in that position. Almost everyone has fantasized about being in a position to win a game or some kind of an event, or take a stand, make a rescue, or save a life. I know you have, because we all have. If you disagree, write me a comment on my blog and tell me. But I’ll bet nobody will. Secretly, everyone wants to have his or her 15 minutes of fame.

So I decided that I might have jumped ahead of some of you, and assumed you want to be a leader. Some people want that so badly, they can taste it. They have vivid goals, and they are willing to work to get there. And, they believe that they can. How about you?

Consider this analogy. If you’re a football fan, you have to appreciate Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and the other great QBs. They’ve all had game-winning drives, experienced the joy of doing that, and received the adulation of the crowd. It’s heady stuff. Wouldn’t it be great to jump into their shoes? But, while we can all imagine what it might be like to be in that position, we know chances are we’ll never get there. We’ll win the lottery first.

Coach Gary says:

“First, learn what the ball looks like, then pick it up. This allows you a chance to throw it!”

So, my task should not be to convince you that you could become one of those QBs, especially if you’ve hardly played the game. But, could I get you to believe that you might be able to learn how to throw a pass or hand off a ball and run a step or two with it? If you’re honest, you’ll have to agree.

I’m not saying that with enough coaching, we could take a football team into a big game. I’m realistic, and I know you’d have to agree to learn some fundamentals. Then we’d follow your progress from there. You might be able to go further than you think. So let’s get real, and apply this lesson to our own world.

Your boss expects you to represent the company on some of its projects. He needs you to watch out for the company’s interests, because he knows the client probably will not be. You’ve got to step up, but you’re not exactly sure how. It’s tough to be QB1 if you’ve never touched a football before. Maybe somebody could at least show you how to hold the darn ball. We could start with that, and build from there.

Look, you know you need to do some PM stuff, and you know that Coach Gary has told you before that this is not rocket science. Don’t worry about the first-string thing. You just get to practice. Lucky for you, practice session NO. 1 is simple and easy. Write a Request for Information (RFI).

Here’s the deal: You are going to write some RFIs, and you are going to do these just for practice. Coach gives you permission to write an RFI or two, not even expecting anything to come of it.

Coach Gary says:

“The coaches are on the field waiting for you, and so is your team. They want you to become a leader, but they’ll settle for having you just make practice.”

But the RFIs do have to be based upon something real, so let’s think of an example. Maybe the project specs say you are building a masonry wall, but don’t detail the rebar positioning, size, or laps well enough. Even though you might know what the industry standard is, write a darn RFI anyway. Again, this is just an exercise. But, let the client know that his response to your RFI is critical to the project, and just see what happens.

The benefit of the exercise is that you will learn you have some actual power, and that when you write an RFI, the client is obligated to respond. It probably says so in your contract!

Now, here’s how we’re going to leave things for this month. You’re going to do a few little practice exercises with RFIs. You can go to FullContactBlog and look around for some info on writing the “Winning RFI.” Heck, you can even get it from my book. Or, you can just sit back another month, and we’ll go into this in detail in the April column. But you really ought to get to practice, right now.

Becoming a leader in this business isn’t easy, but it is expected of you. You can do this.

Coach Gary’s Corner:

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author and consultant. Got a question? Go to the Blog and ask him, or email

Copyright 2008 Gary Micheloni





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