Who’s More Important to Please – The Customer or Your Management?

Posted by Brad Egeland

I ask this question from the perspective of the W2 employee.  If you consider this from the independent consultant angle, it gets too messy.  In the consulting scenario, often your management in the PM role is YOUR customer and their customer is also YOUR customer.  So, for the purpose of this article, I’m really just considering direct hire employees.

So who’s more important to please – your management or your customer?  As a project manager, I always consider my customer to be the number one reason I’m carrying out a project.  It’s their money and I’m trying to help get them to the solution that they are looking for – or at least the one that they really need (even if they need educated somewhat along the way).  I’ve often been frustrated at the roadblocks that management has put up in front of me – rather than knock down – along the way to project success.  And on at least two occasions the path that management has directed me to take on a project has led to utter disaster.  I’m not saying my path would have yielded success, but the likelihood of success was definitely higher.

So for me personally, I err on the side of the customer.  That is probably what makes me a better consultant than employee.  In a perfect world you have management, a PMO Director, and an executive staff that is involved and helps build paths to project successes.  But in more than half of the PMOs and project situations I’ve been involved in as a W2 employee that has not been the case.  How can I tell beyond my own frustrations?  Well, in all of those organizations either the PMO was eventually eliminated, the PMO Director removed, or the company shut down altogether.  So in those instances, I’m banking on my opinion over theirs.

I’m not stupid – I know in the long run if you don’t work to please your management, your tenure with the organization could be short.  So you must be careful and even diplomatic and probably have some long discussions with your management if you disagree with their direction.  Going rogue isn’t going to win you points with anyone in your organization – unless you are able to completely prove that your way was the best way.  But if you’re too disobedient of your senior management’s directions and wishes, you may be removed from the project or the organization before you have a chance to prove that you were right…so be careful.

I’d really like to hear from our readers on this one.  Who do you try to serve?  Ideally, both the customers best wishes and your organization’s leadership are in complete alignment, but for a number of reasons – political, budgetary, stubbornness, and many more – they are sometimes very much not in alignment with each other and you find yourself pulled in different directions.  In those cases, who do you serve?

Please give us your feedback – I’m looking forward to it…

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One Comment to “Who’s More Important to Please – The Customer or Your Management?”

  • Brad, I go with you on this one. Go for the customer, but keep a balanced internal view as well. After all, we all know where the money is coming from, right???

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