Project Management – An Interview with Niccolo Machiavelli


We are here with Mr. Niccolo Machiavelli. Mr. Machiavelli is the author of the well known publication, “The Prince”. Welcome to the show Nick!

NM> Thanks Ian, I am glad to be here.

Nick, when you look at a project manager what is the first thing you assess?

NM> The first thing I want to know is; just how smart is this PM? You can easily find that out. The first method for estimating the intelligence of a PM is to look at the people they have  around them. If it’s a good team, you know the PM is on their game.

What are the  biggest 4 challenges you see in projects today?

NM>The biggest one is there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. It’s cultural change management. The adoption of the changes the project will introduce.

NM> In at a close second is the visibility into late tasks. Tardiness often robs us opportunity, and the dispatch of our forces. Finding out too late is problematic.

NM> In third, The wise person does at once what the fool does finally.  I see PM’s who detect a problem, know a resolution plan but fail to act quickly enough. Eventually they do it, but they could have corrected it a lot earlier.

NM> In fourth I would say managing change and change in requirements. One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others and if you are not careful the floodgates open.

Nick, what is your best guidance for managing risk in a project?

NM>Ian, let me say this first. All projects have risk. Never was anything great achieved without danger, so what we can do is prepare for that danger. As the project progresses we want to keep constant vigil on the project risks. The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it. By constantly improving the clarity of our understanding of the risks, we can continuously make better and better plans to deal with the risks should they materialize. The key is to keep updating it as time progresses.

What do you suggest a PM do when things go wrong on a project?

NM> In my experience, communication is always the key. Don’t dilly-dally about with bad news. Severities should be dealt out all at once, so that their suddenness may give less offense. Get bad news out on the table quickly and get it all out. Good news stories ought to be handed out drop by drop, so that they may be relished the more, but the only way to handle a real crisis is to get everybody informed and everybody communicating with all of the information. As you start to fix the problem don’t rush to proclaim total victory, benefits should be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better.

What about dealing with Project politics?

NM>Yes it’s a sad reality but all projects have a political angle to them. The best advice I can give is the one who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise that the one whose policy clashes with the demands of the times does not. Be flexible as whosoever desires constant success must change their conduct with the times.

So what is the real secret to being a successful Project Manager?

NM>Successful projects come from the PM’s and the team’s will to succeed. Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.

Thank you Nick for your time today and we look forward to having your insights with us again in the future.

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2 Responses to Project Management – An Interview with Niccolo Machiavelli

  1. Pingback: Infinite Shades of Grey – A year later and a little greyer | Infinite Shades of Grey

  2. Egidijus says:

    I really liked your article and the way you immortalized Machiavelli. This have added sense of relevance and reality to 500 year old knowledge.

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