I was thinking about President Kennedy's famous quote, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".

I think that we can sometimes get lost in managing the schedule, staying in task, going through the project motions, and herding our project resources that we can sometimes forget about our project customer.  I know I probably don't say this enough, but project management is at least one-third customer service.  That's my opinion anyway.  Our customer is our bread and butter. They pay the bills. They need the work done.

When you are in a restaurant, do you leave thinking you had excellent service if someone came by several times and filled your drinks, asked how the food was, and asked you needed anything?  Yes!  At least I always feel that way.

Shouldn’t we treat our project customers the same way?  We reach out to them for our regularly scheduled touch points throughout the project.  If we don’t maintain those, we’re in trouble.  When customers see you start messing too much with the communication schedule they get restless, frustrated and unhappy.  You have the weekly contact that you should be making with electronic transmission of the schedule and status report and then you have the weekly status meeting or status call.  I know you’re busy.  We all are.  But do you reach out to your customer at other – unscheduled – times to see if they need anything?  Do you periodically ask how things are going from their perspective?

I know that there are certain projects that may be going through rough times where you really don’t want to ask them how they think things are going – we don’t really want to hear their answer at that given moment.  But the more we reach out, the more the customer understands that you understand their needs – or at least concerned about them.  Ask if there are any concerns that they have at the moment.  Ask if things seem to be going well from their perspective – ask if they’re happy with how your team is performing…and yes, ask if they’re satisfied with how you’re managing the project.  Better to hear it gently from them rather than harshly from your CEO later on when a very frustrated customer contacts him.