Partnership poker


Deal a winning hand in partner-project manager relations with preparation and professionalism.

Portfolio management is similar to the game of poker—winning is a matter of balancing the risks against the odds. The stakes are especially high for private partnerships that may be putting their livelihoods on the line to fund projects.

In the public realm of elected boardrooms, decision-making is often driven by market forces and financiers' preferences. But in private businesses, it is the partners' moods, personalities and preferences that shape the direction of the organization and its project teams. To increase the chance of success, partners must nurture project management processes and methodologies among their project managers.

Partner groups respond well to honesty, brevity, humor and equality. For example, a partner group I recently worked with agreed to put project management on the agenda at its monthly meeting. Right before we were to begin, I was informed the session was cut in half, so I trimmed my presentation to fit. The partners were openly appreciative of my shortened presentation, the open and immediate responses to diverse questions and comments, and my direct communication style. To my surprise, I was invited to finish my original presentation.

To sell an idea to partners or senior stakeholders, consider the following:

Why should the partners give you their time?

Is the timing appropriate to the organization?

What will they gain from the interaction?

Can the message be clearly conveyed if time is curtailed?

Has there been adequate preparation to support the presentation's content?

Is the right person making the presentation to the partners?

What is the timing of the presentation in terms of duration and in context of the current marketplace?

What is the walk-away position?

Timing and context are particularly relevant in preparing for meetings with partners. Remember, their lives and homes may be invested in the business for which project managers are responsible. As with a game of poker, one has to review the hand dealt, contemplate whether to play or pass, and then decide how much risk to entertain.

Likewise, it's in both the project managers' and the partners' interest to be as prepared as possible prior to the presentation. Clearly, partners want the project managers to succeed on the projects they fund. Ownership of an organization—its people, its work and its finances—is a rigorous and high-pressure role to fill. Partners depend on the quality of their project managers and their ability to communicate their needs succinctly and make best use of time and available resources.


As project managers, we are supplied with a team and the necessary funding, facilities and leadership to succeed in business. We invest ourselves, and the organizations for which we work invest the rest. The senior members of every organization deserve the courtesy of well-thought-out presentations with focused outcomes and respect for the time and money invested in assessing each project. When a project manager uses good project management methodology, the project teams, clients and ultimately the company is sure to succeed. Project management, like poker, is for those who can hold their resolve and be decisive and graceful in winning. PM


Sheilina Somani, PMP, is owner of Positively Project Management and vice president, education, for the PMI Diversity Specific Interest Group.





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