Does your project manager have Intelligent Disobedience?

Blog 09-04-2021

I’ve interviewed literally hundreds of project managers over the years and it is easy to ask the candidate some basic questions on project management, e.g. what’s a risk compared to an issue, how do you plan projects etc… You should, of course, also ask the candidate some questions to see whether he or she culturally fits with the organisation.

An Australian colleague came up with very good criteria for picking a good project manager. He wanted project managers who had ‘intelligent disobedience’. He likened this to a key quality of a guide dog.  When a guide dog is with his owner at the side of the road and his owner wants to cross the road, the guide dog will disobey his owner if the dog sees traffic coming. The dog demonstrates intelligent disobedience.

A good project manager must also be able to stand up and push back if he or she thinks that a stakeholder or even the sponsor is pushing the project in a direction which is contrary to the project objectives or reduces the validity of the business case. This can be a hard thing to do, i.e. confront a senior stakeholder or sponsor. It requires the conviction of standing up for what is right and not just following orders from a senior stakeholder or sponsor.

So next time you are looking to hire a project manager, see if he or she will have the conviction to disobey intelligently!

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