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Let’s say a multimillionaire project gets into trouble, costs are deviating, the schedule is extending, requirements change constantly because where not properly defined from the beginning, the stakeholders cannot reach an agreement on scope boundaries and priorities…The project manager is overwhelmed with change management and conflicting agendas don’t help to align customer and provider objectives.

A new project manager is needed, one that not only can provide a fresh perspective but also has a clear idea on how to make things happen. The organization doesn’t have anyone with the necessary experience and credentials. The only option remaining before the project collapses over all people involved is to bring an outsider.

It’s not an easy decision to take; moreover, once taken it is even more difficult to stand firm with it.
The new project manager will certainly have some advantages to manage the project but the drawbacks will be significant too. In the positive side, the newcomer will have, and will require to accept the job, a high level of authority. After all, the company has accepted that they cannot lead the project and require help. How can they say “no” to any option the new PM proposes? Team, providers, reporting, will be adjusted according to new criteria.

Nevertheless, this authority based management cannot last long. Quite likely, the team will challenge this authority. They will feel their experience both individually and as a group is being questioned and if someone is to be reviewing their past work and deciding on the future one, they really need to deserve the credit. Sooner rather than later the new PM needs to show an excellent capacity to learn about the project technologies, environment, tools, relationships, weak and strong points and move from an authority based to a know-how based model that invites others to join in with a collaborative attitude.

Coming back to the new criteria for decision taking, even options that may have been rejected previously will now be accepted as the most logical and common sense options. The new PM is not there to stay. The PM can work as if there is no tomorrow, because for the PM there is no tomorrow. The reputation is confirmed or lost in every project, there is no average performance record and a partially successful project is not an acceptable result.

To compensate for that, the long term plans of the company are not of the upmost importance to the PM as often happens with internal PMs that must consider that there will be another project shortly after the current one. In this case, for the PM is just a second priority, if any, to consider only if the decision doesn’t compromises the current plans in any way. Politics loses weight while technical and cost-wise solutions escalate positions to the top.

Definitely, this SWAT PM doesn’t have an easy mission but easy ones do not help to build a solid reputation on solving crisis situations.