NewYork2008:Navigating internal politics and relationships

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Politics of Project Management facilitated by Mohammed

Managing relationships with people
Ambiguous authority

  • In Nonprofit sector - degree of emotional involvement in the work is more intense than corporate work
  • Establish formal & informal communication with stakeholders - customize to each stakeholder
  • Understand what each stakeholder cares about (their concerns, emotional involvement) and manage the relationship with that in mind
  • People that don't understand technology and are concerned about costs - need extra explanations for simple technical/project needs
  • Having a decision maker that does not understand technology causes a lot of extra work
  • Trainings for decision makers on technology does not always work - hard to schedule and gain their interest
  • Forces PMs to think carefully about projects and what they are doing
  • Rephrasing things in layman's terms can help PMs fully understand the project/technology
  • Need to communicate the changes fully to decision makers so they care/are interested in trainings
  • Personal training sessions for technophobes help them understand technology the way they need to
  • Managers that "think" they know a lot about technology - challenging, annoying
  • Need to be able to make a case for the technology being requested (new, cool software needs a purpose)
  • Why? is always a useful question - why is it needed? what is the purpose?
  • Delegate right back to person who requests things - ask them to document what they want and often it won't happen
  • Who is going to maintain cool, new ideas in the organization?
  • How to have conversations about technology with people who are scared of it
  • Point to concrete outcomes - time saving, money saving, money making
  • Stress in dealing with anything technological
  • Lure people into participation with simple explanations and technical implementations
  • Strip things down to basic language - simple illustrations or metaphors - a picture is worth a thousand words
  • "Hot swapping is like working on a plane when its in flight"
  • Wanting more involvement from higher ups but not getting it
  • Iterative production for projects where there is not a lot of direction - expect changes
  • Don't become too wrapped up in the dysfunction and withdraw
  • Need to have a positive attitude or move on
  • "Planned vs. emerging projects"
  • Articulate costs so everyone understands the costs of random projects that come up
  • Pressure for web-based projects - everything needs to be web-based
  • Written organizational policy to include IT from the beginning to avoid too many emerging, high priority projects
  • Establish strong boundaries - give people rules to follow when working with you
  • "Become the constant buzz-kill" to people's last minute project ideas
  • Mixing formal and informal communication - email, meetings, and ad-hoc calls and chats all help do the job
  • Project Management is not a series of switches, its a series of dials - gentle adjustments
  • There are some people you have to circumvent
  • How to get everyone involved in an IT project - even if they're not interested
  • Feed them to get them involved in training/testing
  • - website with shared desktop tools to help train remote people
  • You may need to try different things to get them involved - face to face interaction
  • Find someone at the organization who knows how to work with some of the more difficult personalities

*** IT is a great lens into what's wrong in the organization


  • Educate end users to ease anxiety
  • A picture is worth a thousand words
  • Understand that you have to become the constant buzz kill to "emerging projects"
  • Project Management is not a series of switches, its a series of dials - gentle adjustments