Nobody Wants to Share the Bad Stuff

Everyone enjoys sharing good news and everyone likes to congratulate others on a job well done. It’s happy. It’s upbeat. There is no one down, sad, or hurt. Good news makes everyone’s day.
Bad news,APwell.APthat’s the flipside. It’s not fun to give bad news to friends, family, and others. Bad news for our management at work makes me cringe. Depending on the news, it can also be a career-changer. A customer should not be given bad news. They will drop the project, declare me incompetent, and cancel my consulting engagement. It’s not something that I look forward to. I doubt anyone looks forward to the bad news.
We all know that honesty is the best policy. The customer will find out the bad stuff sooner than we think. The customer should find out the details from the project manager, and include some suggested actions. We might be on the receiving end of a call from our CEO, who just received a call form our customer,APand he won’t be happy.
What do you do if we run into a major issue on our project? What has been your best method to quickly get things back on track? My experience has shown me that four steps are the best way to proceed. These steps include analyzing the situation to identify the issues, discussing them with management to make them aware, presenting the issues to the customer and recommending the best course of action. Let’s look at each other…
Analyze and Discover.
I assume that the issues were discovered by the project manger and the project delivery team,APnot by the customer. The team must now gather together and analyze the situation. The team should gather to brainstorm, identify the issues, and then prioritize them based on feasibility, cost / effort, and likelihood of success. This information will be useful for both your management and the customer in the future.
It can be applied to management.
Next, meet with your PMO director or senior management to discuss the problem and the possible solutions that you and your team have formulated. It is important to get their approval, especially if the project is highly visible or the plan is costly. You can even ask them to participate in the customer discussion. This brings us to the next step.
Go to the customer.
Next, you, the PM, are responsible for all communication. If the customer doesn’t know about the issue, it is you who should first reach out and inform them. This can cause customer confidence to be eroded if your supervisor takes over. An interesting fact: When I was the Las Vegas PMO leader for a defunct company headquartered in another state and the company was closing down, it was not my VP who went to my clients to inform them. It was not an easy position, but it was necessary. Eventually, the largest client affected offered me a position as their leader.
After the initial contact, have a formal conversation with the customer to discuss the problem and present the options that you and your team have formulated. Never be afraid to bring up problems, but also to offer potential solutions. Discuss with the customer the best corrective action option from the list that you and your team have created and ensure everyone is on the same page about the next step.