Due to a wicked sinus infection, I wasn’t at the client site for several days. I found myself taking pill after pill, trying to get myself back to a condition where I could return to the program and really be effective. I think I took every colored pill under the rainbow. I chuckled to myself as I took a blue pill, as I thought about the movie The Matrix.
In a memorable scene, the character Neo is faced with a decision. By taking a blue pill, he could continue believing what he wanted to believe. By doing so, he was ignoring reality. The one who was giving him an opportunity of enlightenment was Morpheus.
Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
Welcome to the world of project management, Morpheus. I’ve learned over time, which of my stakeholders to give the red pill to and which to give the blue pill to. To be truthful, many don’t even want you to offer them a pill. It’s my job to support and advise stakeholders related to the program. It’s not my job to tell a stakeholder which pill to take.
When managing stakeholders, you really need to understand their motivations and expectations. Not all stakeholders want the program or project to succeed. Of the ones who do want the program to succeed, I’ve witnessed complete polar opposites of figurative pill popping. On one side of the spectrum, I’ve dealt with a stakeholder who wanted to know every little detail of what was going on with a project. This micro-manager almost choked on his red pills. On the complete other side of the spectrum, I’ve had a stakeholder who showed up for a project charter meeting, swallow the blue pill, and just let everything take its course.
For those in the middle, there is a bit of a punchline. Mix both a red pill and blue pill and you get a purple pill. “Purple Pill” is a trademark for a heartburn medication, which is exactly what you’ll need at some point of a project.
So, I’m back in the office today. I sat in a meeting with 50 other people and listened to a monthly status briefing by a vendor. As I looked around the room and thought about writing this, I muttered to myself.