What happened the last time your project was hit by major problem? Did you have to update your project sponsor? Were you apprehensive about it?
Nobody likes reporting bad news, especially when your sponsor is part of upper management. Part of this is the reaction that you get. A bad delivery could damage your reputation, affect your teamâ²s standing, and possibly change the level of support your project sponsorâ²s willing to give. If the situation is really bad, it could even affect your job security.
But there is a way to give bad news that keeps your head on your shoulders.
Speak directly and honestly
Donâ²t talk around the point, and donâ²t hedge. This wastes your and your sponsorâ²s time, and will only make him madder. He trusts you (right now, anyway), and dissembling will only damage that faith.
Be direct and to the point, instead. Give it to him straight, because thatâ²s the only way heâ²ll be able to help you come up with solutions.
Separate Facts and Suspicions
Do you know why the project is failing, or are you making assumptions? Giving your suspicions to the project sponsor is a very slippery slope. Itâ²s easy to get carried away with your opinionsespecially if theyâ²re biasedand influence the issue in the wrong way.
For example, if a website went down, do you know for sure that it was human error and not infrastructure problems? If you fire your IT manager based on your suspicions, and you find out later it was technical problems, youâ²ll never be able to hire the guy back.
Donâ²t Lay Blame
There are many reasons not to lay blame in a crisis: accuracy, ethics, professionalismbut the biggest reason you should keep in mind is: it doesnâ²t help the project in any way. Youâ²re spending all that energy and brain space pinning a problem on somebody else when thereâ²s bigger fish to fry.
Focus on solving the problem. You can hold people accountable after the project is done.
Have Contingencies in Hand
Do you want to know the best way to appease your project sponsor after giving him bad news? Plan out your next moves and explain why they are good options to consider.
This shows your sponsor that youâ²re being proactive about the issue and not waiting for everything to fall down on top of the team. If need be, the sponsor will be happy (or at least willing) to brainstorm better solutions or get you the resources to make it happen.
So the next time you give bad news to your project sponsor, keep the above tips in mind. Be honest, be accurate, be professional, and be thorough. And maybe youâ²ll come out of that situation smelling like roses.