The Optimist

Project Manager that has convinced themselves of project success regardless of evidence to the contrary.

Problem

Generally, positivity is appreciated, as people enjoy working with positive people. The Optimist Project Manager’s flaw is that they let their generally positive outlook interfere with their ability to interpret warning signs on the project. Instead of taking action to correct problems, they choose to ignore what they interpret as unhealthy negativity, and instead choose to only report on what is going well. This breeds a culture of complacency or despondency among project team members, while leading stakeholders to the false belief that everything is going well.

In any leadership role, optimism in the face of adversity is an important asset. To determine if a project manager is The Optimist, rather than a courageous leader, the following tests can be applied:

  • Do they seem appreciative of receiving bad news?
  • Do they often give unwarranted compliments?
  • Are they perpetually in a good mood, regardless of how low the morale of a project is?
  • Do they avoid confrontation, even if confrontation is warranted?
  • Do they seem more focused on being well liked, than the project succeeding?

The Optimist project managers are often the cause of a project’s failure because they ignore problems that will cause the project to fail. The longer the project goes on, the worse this effect will be.

Solution

The similarities between The Optimist Project Managers and a courageous leader is why they are seldom identified, and therefore rarely fixed. By the time it is realized that they are simply optimists, it is often far too late, as the project will have already failed.

Organizations will tend to promote what they perceive to be courageous leaders. As a result, being an optimist project manager will tend to have great career rewards if coupled with the ability to convince the stakeholders that the project failed for reasons outside of their control.

Whether the reason for being The Optimist Project Manager is for personal career advancement, not wanting to confront an inconvenient truth, or simply being naive, their damage to the project is the same. The only difference is if they are promoted or fired.


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