Project Management

Know the Influencers

Samuel B. Bacharach

All organizations have key "influencers" who can help bring a project to life — or stop it dead in its tracks. Here's some advice on how to identify and persuade four types of influencers — Top Dogs, Gatekeepers, Gurus and Players — to move your initiatives and ideas forward.

Anyone who has worked in an organization knows how hard it is to move a project or an idea forward. For better or worse, all organizations — businesses, non-profits, advisory boards — are political mazes. Resistance and inertia are part of organizational life. Most often no one is out to get you. It’s simply that everyone has his or her own intentions.

If you want to see your project come to life, be prepared to deal with one or all of four types of influencers — Top Dogs, Gatekeepers, Gurus, and Players. Here’s some advice on how to identify and persuade each type.

1. Top Dogs are the organizational decision makers, those with official authority and veto power. All organizational activity happens on their watch. Top Dogs have the authority to approve decisions — and to torpedo them.

Obviously, Top Dogs have authority. Their yea or nay is essentially a final decision. That’s a given. What isn’t given, and is more subtle, is when you should reach out to the Top Dog. You have to be careful to time your approach the Top Dog, striking a balance between…

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- Chinese Proverb