How to Fish, Part 3

I had the great fortune of growing up in a small coastal town located in New England.  In the summer, we would fish on the ocean, in the spring and fall we would head to the pond.  In winter, we would dress in layers and test our luck on the ice.

With the arrival of fall and cooler air temperatures, water at the surface of lakes and ponds cools, becoming almost as heavy as the cooler bottom water.  Strong autumn winds move surface water around, which promotes mixing with deeper water.  This is known as fall turnover.

As mixing continues, lake water becomes more uniform in temperature and oxygen level, allowing fish to move around freely. Fish can be difficult to find as long as these conditions prevail, usually continues until the weather turns cold, chilling the lake’s surface.

By combining a knowledge of preferred water temperature and lake turnover, you can kind-of-sort-of predict which fish will be in a particular part of a lake at a particular time of the year.  You need a similar understanding of senior leaders when it comes time to gain executive sponsorship and support project management practices.

Lisa DiTullio, Principal, Your Project Office,


Senior leaders play a critical role in the introduction and acceptance of project management in any organization.  In fact, their endorsement, or lack thereof, will direct project management to succeed or fail.  Senior executives are always under the spotlight.  They must practice what they preach to gain staff acceptance.   To gain corporate buy-in on project management practices, senior executives must exhibit project management knowledge, display acceptance and be enthusiastic.

Establishing clear roles and responsibilities among the project’s key stakeholders and team members is on important role of an executive sponsor.  As a project manager, be specific and direct when discussing how you will both operate.  Do not assume how you will each operate, even if you have worked together on previous project assignments.

Here are a few key questions to consider when defining roles and responsibilities:

  • Have you both reviewed the scope document together to ensure there are no questions?
  • Is there a process in place to support project status reporting?
  • Do you have a standing meeting scheduled to review periodic updates, discuss new issues?
  • Do you know who “owns” the project’s major decisions?
  • How and when will you discuss schedule slippage or new risks to the project?
  • Have you established ground rules regarding changes to scope, schedule, or resources?
  • What the process to support change management?

When you get right down to it, you have to be able to set the hook in order to catch fish. It takes time and practice. It also takes patience. In a given situation, several factors may affect how you go about setting the hook – like fish species, the mood of the fish on a particular day, and your bait presentation.

The project status report is the most effective hook you can use.  If designed properly, it is guaranteed to attract all fish, no matter the season.  Project managers must understand the importance of accurate status reporting; it is an extremely powerful tool that acts as a ‘call to action’ for executives.  Through effective status reporting, your project can get the attention it deserves and the focus of the executives to take action to turn your project back to ‘green’.

Remember — it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have a bite or if you’re just feeling the current or a fish bumping into the bait. The more you know about the fish you’re after, and the more time you spend on the water practicing, the better you’ll get.


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