The Project Notebook

The Importance of Saying Yes

I recently read the Forbes magazine article, “Dear Mom and Pop: Five Tips on Giving Superior Customer Service” by Marc Compeau, the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Clarkson University (check out my “I Support” area on the right if you think there’s a connection!). Tip #5 was “the answer is always yes”. This is an important prinicple for us to remember in our Project Management practices as well.

Why say yes? Unless you’re GE, WalMart, or have a wildly successful business, the most important reason is to gain or keep a customer. Saying no automatically sends your prospective project or client to the competition. If you say yes, but find you can’t deliver later, you can gracefully help your prospect find another acceptable solution or introduce them to a competitor who has the answer.

Saying yes helps our image — we’re seen as positive people ready to help. Just as when we apply for a job or answer an RFP, we always want to put our best foot forward and do our best to describe what we have to offer in a positive light. We become facilitators instead of obstacles.

Now don’t get me wrong … I do tell my Project Management students its OK to say no occasionally. We just want to limit the times we say no directly. For example, instead of “no, we can’t implement that because it will put us over budget”, we can put it in one of at least two different ways:

1) “Yes, we can do that, but it will put us over budget. You stated coming in under budget was a critical success factor. Is this still important to you?” Let the project sponsor make the decision based on strategic goals.
2) “Yes, we can do that, but it will put us over budget. Perhaps we should consider that as Phase II work.” Here we take the lead and suggest how to turn a “no” into a “yes” later.

So can we say “yes”? Yes, of course!

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP