Practice These Three Key Ways to Control Project Politics
What happens when your project sponsor wants a different outcome for the project than other management stakeholders? The answer is that each party tries to influence the project team to get what they want. This is one way you get into project politics. The result is that the team is pulled in different directions, trying to keep everyone happy. The project team becomes stressed, confused, de-motivated and inefficient. It’s your job as a project manager to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Having a well defied set of project management processes
will help you manage politics because people will know they can’t go around the processes to get done what they want. However, project politics can’t be solved by processes alone. You need to first work on the people element.
Step 1: Build relationships
It is easier to deal with office politics if you have relationships with the major stakeholders. Building relationships make it easier to work in a friendly and transparent manner. This starts with stakeholder identification and stakeholder management but goes beyond. Stakeholder engagement is about building two-way relationships. These relationships will help when there is conflict and can keep you from getting into the dark side of project politics.
Build close relationships by meeting each stakeholder regularly to find out what they need from the project and why they need it. By listening to their needs, you’re securing their buy-in and you may be able to save unnecessary conflict in the future.
Step 2: Create a Project Board or Steering Committee of Key Stakeholders
One way to get competing stakeholders on the same page is to create a Project Board or Steering Committee. The Project Board should include your sponsor, major customers and other people that may influence the project. The purpose of the board is to set direction, resolve issues, control the scope and make sure that specific targets are set and achieved.
By forming a Project Board, you create a space where the senior stakeholders can thrash out the politics themselves and come to a consensus. If you include all of the “influencers” on the Board, you can task them with giving you a single, consistent vision. That way, there is no confusion as to what must be done to complete the project and people are not pulled in different directions all of the time.
Step 3: Manage Change
A big risk to a project is that the project scope changes. This is a breeding ground for project politics because stakeholders will have their own wants and need to be met—and they may not all be consistent with one another. Stakeholders may pull the project is different directions through scope changes.
You need to manage change carefully with a formal process. Your change process should involve documenting the benefit of the change and the impact to the project in implementing it. The change request should then be presented to the Project Board for review and approval. You need to make sure that when it’s approved the Board also approved the extra resources needed to implement it.
Building relationships, creating a Project Board and proactively managing change will help you cut through politics to ensure your project success.
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