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I cannot mitigate against silence.’ by May Deegan, MAATS Commercial Lead

Posted on 10 December 2020

I cannot mitigate against silence.’ by May Deegan, MAATS Commercial Lead

Silence can be powerful, but it can also be destructive.

Conversation within a project team should be open, no topic taboo, and nobody fearful of raising a risk that requires mitigating actions. Many people see the Project Manager (PM) or Project Sponsor (PS) as an entity to be feared, one who gives little thought to realistic timelines and wants the job
completed at all costs. The result of this perception is often silence and when silence impacts communication, project problems and subsequent failure follow.

Each member of a project team is a stakeholder and has equal levels of personal and team-based responsibility and accountability. This also means that every stakeholder has a responsibility to speak up. When one makes a choice to remain silent, resulting in a problem or failure which could
have been mitigated against, there is no hiding from the personal accountability felt. There is no need for the latter to occur. While it is never easy to step up and admit that you are falling behind or that you have seen a mistake in a co-worker’s submission, remaining silent often leads to a negative
work environment.

It is the responsibility of all to foster a positive work environment, however the PM/PS role has the true opportunity to obtain engagement from the outset. Openly discussing risks around the table, instead of behind closed doors, brings confidence to the project team and presents a public view on
how the PM/PS will deal with bad news and its subsequent mitigation. The PM/PS must take the time to listen to the feedback, looking forward to solutions and take on the responsibility of drowning out panic or blame.

Promoting openness leads to trust, trust garners respect, and a project team who respect each other are a formidable force.

Therefore, while my much-used statement of ‘I cannot mitigate against silence’ can illicit groans and smiles in equal measure from my colleagues, I stand by it’s importance in ensuring project success.