Signing something off can be daunting. It means you agree that it (whatever it is) is done. The finality of a sign off can even be debilitating to some.
Iâve just recently completed a project and experienced a straightforward, easy sign off. Though, going into the meeting I felt anxious, nervous and apprehensive. It brought back some uncomfortable memories of previous sign off situations that werenât so pleasant.
Situation Number One:
Client Manager: âThatâs great, Susan, itâs just not what I was thinkingâ¦â
Me: *heart sinks* *followed by huffs and puffs* followed some amateur dramatics that went something like this:
âIâm sorry, I donât have the skill set of âmind readingâ! If thatâs what you had wanted, you should have hired somebody else. I have delivered EVERYTHING that was asked for, exactly how it was asked for. You yourself signed off on the requirements documentation. The fact that this project is now done, is not really a question up for debate. So, please, sign here!â
Client Manager: *Shocked and stunned, signed*
It was the end of the project. Everything was done. There was no more work to do. I had proof that all the outputs were done, exactly to spec, produced by approved specialists and tested by approved testers. All I was looking for was a signature. My original request was, âPlease, sign hereâ.
The Client Manager was after more â some free work that had never been mentioned before. However, instead of saying that, he said the seven most irritating words ever to a Project Manager, âitâs just not what I was thinkingâ, which kind of tipped me over the edgeâ¦
The irony is that if heâd have been honest, I would have stuck around and helped him out. I understand that things are tight and Iâm more than happy to help when I can. But he didnât and I didnât.
Weeks went by and I received a call.
He half-apologised and asked me to come back to do some more work where he promised to ask for exactly what he wants.
Situation Number Two:
Different client. This time it was not about money, but about indefinite servitudeâ¦
Although the project was finished, the Client Manager kept extending my contract to continue ongoing business support. The original three months was extended by another month because the business was hitting its busy season and didnât have the capacity to take this on, yet. Then there was an emergency, another month. Then a change in management meant newcomers were still âon-boardingâ so unable to take ownership, another two. There was always a reason.
As a contractor, this is hard to complain about. But as a Project Manager, it was time for me to move on. To be fair, it wasnât taking up too much time, it was part-time and since it was smooth running, quite uneventful. The Client Manager just didnât want to be left in the lurch. His issues revolved around expecting things to fall apart as soon as I left and not fully trusting the existing staff to know what to do.
It took one final extension to address these issues by mentoring members of staff in product ownership and proving their capability of doing what needed to be done. I also agreed to come back if/when there was a problem. I have not received any calls.
Situation Number Three:
Different client. Â This time it was about avoiding embarrassment and keeping a good reputation.
The Client Manager would rather finish the project than stop the madness. To him a finished project got accolades, even if what was delivered was obsolete, not needed, out of date, and âun-usableâ.Â A project stopped early was deemed a failure, even if in the end it saved the company money.
I inherited the project after three other Project Managers had come and gone. That should have been my clue. But it was sold to me that other circumstances, promotions, and lifestyle choices had taken them away. It became apparent right away that the project did not make business sense. The money, time and resources being consumed by this project could be better spent on something else. Even attempting to bring up the conversation of closing this down early was met with fierce rejection.
Final (political) arrangements made consisted of severe morphing of this project into another that did make sense. The appearance of this being the same project helped him save face and the business didnât suffer a âfoolâs projectâ.
What are your experiences with getting a project signed off? Successfully or unsuccessfully.