NewYork2008:The Politics of Project Management

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Establishing and following good processes, selecting and effectively using appropriate tools -- these are elements of project management for which best practices exist and can be followed. But all too often, the biggest barriers to successful project delivery lie in the collection of intangible factors that fall under the broad rubric of "politics". This session will address tactics for successfully achieving stakeholder buy-in, identifying and dealing with "challenging personalities", using transparency as a leverage point, identifying and mitigating failure points, and the nuances of control dynamics in project contexts. The session will strike a balance between framing statements from the facilitator and questions and input from participants.

Session Notes

Sorry for the jumble, everybody.--K

G: Project as a campaign. We need to win. How do we align people for this goal? How will this liberate our organization? It's all about individual deals. You need to hold conversation with every one of the stakeholders. By talking to people as if they're co-organizers of your campaign (you have "teased out the mandate"), then you're effectively representing them and not directing them. "I am working on your behalf as a facilitator." Creates malleability of process: people will work with more flexibility and ease.

  • When you try to tease out interests, those interests are sometimes in direct conflict. What do you do? Transparency. Say when things go wrong. It puts less pressure on you and more pressure on other people in the team.

Key Concept: Transparency

Re: Transparency is not always an absolute good. Empathy is a rare resource. For the Type A, delivery takes priority over empathy, but empathy (seeing perspectives) is a necessary quality and can lead to further benefits/favors.

Q: Can you try to create a culture about what people need more in advance? If you're putting up with it, then you're the enabler. You need to take proactive action and say "No". Giving stories to draw up project boundaries and desires. The technique of schedule padding.

Key Concept: The culture of deadline setting

KC: Quality of product will give you later leverage.

KC: The Scotty Approach

I'm glad to do it, but can you spoon-feed me it in an email?--simplifies results

G: If you're not being real, you're going to fail. Engaging a person on a personal level can contribute to your project's progress.

G: Claim your right to change the project.

C: One difficulty is that sometimes we think we speak the same language. Like Americans and English, this works between all stakeholders.

G: Keep documents in a common language for clients (no tech jargon/acronyms).

G: An important part of a campaign is talking points. Two demographics: people interested in the project succeeding and the others. Projects can derail if projects are described different ways. These need to be rectified and unified in the team. It's the PR side of project management.

X: Audience analysis gives perspective.

Y: Can you talk more about the two groups?

G: Sometimes there are different groups on the team that work against each other (ie. programming vs. development interests).

Blaming the Team

G: Pushing the fame to the stakeholders is a valuable part of the process. Internal project blogs/websites are good things where people can post what they've done and ideas. It keeps a record of great achievements. It can increase morale/team unity.

G: Shout praises and not blame. The latter are cathartic, but not productive. Work on cohesion and team strength.How do you deal with somebody who isn't contributing? Personnel changing is always an option after checking in.

KC: Coefficient of community--How much does the individual think about the team? "People who bring the love." How do you navigate people that you can't get rid of? Respect and empathy. It gains trust.

C: Document the transparency on invoices.

M&E: The troubles of training--people might leave for another job with more $ when they're trained.

G: Clonable project management. any process that goes on is templatized. it leaves a knowledge record that reduces the stresses of turnover.

X: What about managing up? How do you work with your supervisor who is doing something necessary for the project?

G: Blunt language works.

M: Speaking with people.

G: The channels you deal with are a big deal: email, phone, and face-to-face.