Good Cop/Doom Cop
I am working on a project right now with a practice lead that grew up in Melbourne. What this means is that in the part of the US that I live in, as long as he is smiling and ends every few sentences with the phrase "no worries mate", regardless of what he says, folks are just plain happy to talk to him. He is a very positive guy. He lives in a world where he doesn't have "challenges", he has "opportunities". He is the power of positive thinking. It is an amazing thing to witness... and sometimes, being afflicted with the terminal ailment of project management, it leaves me feeling like I'm from an alien race.
We got into a bit of a debate today regarding the whole good cop/doom cop thing. Typically, when we are discussing things related to the project, a shard of jagged glass nowhere remotely near the table is, to him, a glass half full of the most profound vino known to man. He looks at things through a lens of what will be, when things line up perfectly... which, they naturally will... no worries mate. I think, for what he does, this is completely necessary and a very good thing in that someone with that positive, can-do mindset is absolutely needed.
Me? Well... lets just say, you can have a glass filled to the brim, resting safely in the center of a table designed to keep it from spilling a drop and all I see in a very fragile risk factor that will most certainly crash to the floor, spill everywhere and result in deadly sharp fragments of glass hiding all about on the floor just waiting to start cutting into everyone who comes near. But the way I look at it, that's kind of the gig. One of our jobs, as PMs, is to see the risks before the others do and be ready for whatever can, and will, go wrong. In a perfect world, we are all Radar O'Reilly, hearing the choppers minutes before anyone else does.
The conversation left me wondering, is it better for a PM to be optimistic and able to approach the project through the smiley, shiny happy people lens, or are we doing a better job of serving our projects and clients looking at the world like a bunch of Schleprock's and preparing for the inevitable... and, are there actually people out there who have been able to find themselves some kind of balance or middle ground?