Influencing Senior Project Managers

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Categories: Stakeholder

How do you change a stubborn senior manager's mind? For example, he or she might claim your project only needs six weeks to complete, even though you have a carefully researched and resource-loaded schedule that proves 10 weeks is needed.

Arguing won't work. In fact, given the power structure, arguing will simply put you in a worse position. Doing nothing simply delays the problem and you will eventually be held accountable for your perceived failure to meet the stakeholder's unrealistic expectations.

To change a senior manager's mind, you need to change the manager's expectations. Though you may battle a heavy overlay of skepticism, use of effective communication and a planned strategy should do the trick.

Effective communication requires that at least two of the following three elements be present:

•    You're known as a technical expert.
•    You're credible: People know you provide reliable and accurate information.
•    The information you're communicating is relevant to the receiver.

Influencing a skeptical senior manager requires you to boost all three facets. You cannot do this alone. Some options to consider include:

Co-present your case with a trusted source. You increase your chances of success by sharing the stage with someone the executive trusts. Build the value of your ideas on the credibility the co-presenter has established with the executive.

Demonstrate endorsements to build power. Ask others in positions of power to let the executive know they support your idea.

Stroke egos and use the executive's credibility. Authentically move ownership of "the" idea -- not "your" idea -- into his space. You can do this by using phrases such as "You've probably seen this data already," or "I'm sure your analysis has shown similar results."

These approaches need organizing and take time but are essential if you are going to effectively advise upward.  

How do you influence your senior managers?

Read more on stakeholder management.
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: August 04, 2011 11:19 AM | Permalink

Comments (1)

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Saket Bansal
I find if you co-present your case with a trusted source, is one effective strategy. The stakeholder should trust the source you are trying to influence. If we can get buy-in for the trusted area expert on the project matter, than it is easy to influence the stakeholder.

Sometimes usage of industry accepted/proven models or tools for communicating your message also works well. For example, in case of software project estimate discussions, if PM takes reference from industry proven sizing models like Function Point that helps.

Third, I believe timing and method of communicating message to stakeholder also makes the difference. It’s better to take some time from important stakeholders for discussion rather than sending the analysis over mail.

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