It’s those thoughts you develop that are not necessarily logical. These are thoughts which should be heeded. Some people might call this their gut instincts. Let’s take a look at an example:
There was a project I managed where the organization was a balanced matrix. Of course you remember that means I was sharing resources and those resources were provided to me by various functional managers. The functional managers and I shared equal power. There was one functional manager that was providing a key technical resource but she would not let me speak directly to that resource. This was her rule. Everything needed to go through her. Her resource owned a very critical technology component of the project.
This functional manager kept assuring me that her resource was working on it and that everything was absolutely fine. I just did not feel good about it. I did not want to violate her wishes and go directly to the resource. I had no logical reason to go behind her back or over her head. For whatever reason, my comfort level was just not very high. And guess what? Unfortunately I was right. When it came time to integrate his component, it did not work. This was not because he had not done a good job – it was because he had not done the work at all! His functional manager (the one who would not let me speak to him directly) had not assigned him the work. She had him working on something else. She felt something else was a higher priority and she just didn’t tell me. This did not go very well for her and this type of behavior did eventually lead to her demotion.
But in the meantime, there we were missing a deadline for no good reason. I know I should have trusted my gut, my project manager intuition. And you should trust yours too.
Certainly there are some other lessons here as well. We have tools and techniques so that we do not manage simply by intuition, right? If there had been some checkpoints where we saw a prototype or a walk-through of the work being performed, there would have been an early warning. Of course this is why we break the project work up into manageable chunks! Use the tools and techniques – but don’t turn off your project management intuition. Sure sometimes your intuition is wrong, but sometimes it is right.
It is better to follow through on an instinct and be relieved that you are wrong, than it is to ignore your intuition and find out you were right but now it is too late.
Project management intuition – pay attention to it!