How am I supposed to sit here planning a project, when you’re over there looking like that?

keep-calm-because-winter-is-coming-23Having received some good feedback after publishing my article covering some project management lessons I learned from the hit AMC television show, Breaking Bad, for this week’s post I thought I’d shake another popular series, Game of Thrones, to see if any lessons fall out.

As with the previous post, there be many spoilers here, so for those of you who are waiting for George R. R. Martin to finishing writing his final two books in the Song of Fire and Ice series before reading them or watching the television series, don’t read further!

You can’t avoid politics: Many project managers feel that office politics are bad and try to remain clean by avoiding any political involvements.  Unfortunately, like Ned Stark discovered, it is virtually impossible to manage a project or a kingdom without learning to navigate political minefields and leveraging positive political moves to your organization’s (but not your own personal) benefit.  While you won’t lose your head, your project will suffer.

Don’t surround yourself with toadies and sycophants: Had Robert Baratheon been more intelligent he would have staffed his small council with independent, principled advisors such as Ned who wouldn’t have been afraid to tell him when he was about to do something foolish.  When he finally brought Ned to King’s Landing, it was too late for his new Hand to make much of a difference.  Project managers should always ensure they surround themselves with at least one or two trusted advisors who can help them to avoid tunnel vision or who can help provide a different view on a decision or issue.

Focus on outcomes: A focus on the triple constraint is admirable, but if the rationale for a project has significantly changed, it is usually a good idea to reassess and determine whether the project should still continue down the same path.  Stannis Baratheon is obsessed with becoming the King of Westeros, but has the good sense to change his goal once he realizes that there is a much bigger threat to deal with from North of the Wall than the petty clash of kings in the South.

Influence is everything: When you consider who are the most successful characters in the series, it’s not the ones who possess the power of position or coercion but rather those like Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish or Varys who effectively leverage influence and persuasion.  Project managers often complain about their lack of formal authority in non-projectized organizations but one can still be a successful project manager by developing strong stakeholder relationships and influencing stakeholders to “do the right thing”.

Honor your commitments: The following clause in PMI’s Code of Ethics says it best “We fulfill the commitments that we undertake – we do what we say we will do.”  Had Robb Stark followed this guidance instead of his heart, he wouldn’t have found out the hard way that it’s not a nice day for a Red Wedding!

Follow these lessons or someone a lot less fetching than Ygritte may someday tell you “You know nothing“!

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