Already my recent article on “Who’s More Important to Please – The Customer or Your Management?” has generated interesting discussion and feedback on LinkedIn.  Hopefully we’ll start seeing some comments here on PM Tips as well.

In response to the discussions that are going on so far, I’d like to follow up with some thoughts on the matter.

The general agreement among responders is that both need to be important – and I agree.  Also, it is being said that a talented project manager will make it apparent to both the customer and their management what is important and align the goals of each.  I agree on this as well – in most cases.

The issue is, most of us have been in one or more poorly planned or poorly run project management offices or organizations with poorly run project oversight.  In some of these cases, it really won’t matter how talented the project manager is, if management doesn’t get it, isn’t focused on project successes, or is often trying to ‘solve’ things behind the scenes before taking it to the customer (and by that time making it too late to resolve the real issues) then there’s not much that can be done.

And again, this does happen.  The organizations I’ve experienced in have all eventually failed either as a whole or in the project management practices, so I know it’s ‘not just me.’  Of course, management not being aligned with the customer is not something that happens often.  But the real question is – when it does happen – what do you do?  And maybe you don’t side with either …. maybe you throw your arms up in the air and quit and go find another job.  Or possibly you put management and the customer in the same room and tell them to work it out.  But you have to be careful on that one – because one of the scenarios I am talking about is when management doesn’t want certain issues shared with the customer yet or ever.  So if you bring something to the customer’s attention in order to get them in the same room with management to resolve the ‘issue’ then you’ve already gone against management’s wishes.

These situations don’t happen often hopefully.  For me it’s just been on three or four occasions.  But when it does happen, it can be very very frustrating and can put your project into a high risk situation.