Sell Others on why The Project Matters!
Too often project managers do not consider the importance of socializing their projects prior to actually beginning the work on the project. It may be because they haven’t thought of the benefits of doing so or because they feel the project is assigned and already decided upon, so why bother. However, the most effective project managers - those who take a strategic approach to how they lead their projects - look at projects from both the perspective of the organization and the perspective of the individual - thereby understanding the benefits of socializing the project early on during the pre-planning stages.
Undoubtedly, you may have to highlight the benefits of socializing projects to your project sponsor and other key stakeholders if this is not common practice already within the organization. Let’s look at an example. I was called in to work with a client who, about 5 months previously, had launched a project to change processes in how they captured and input client data to enable for improved marketing. They never socialized the project first. The end users, on average, had been doing the job in a particular way for about 4 years. Old habits die hard - no one wanted to change what they had been doing; it worked for them. It was 5 months already into the project when I was called in to help correct the situation - progress was very minimal. I recommended they step back and start again - this time taking some time to socialize the initiative and talk about the benefits to the organization as a whole, the departments affected and the individuals. First, however, we needed to do a bit of “repair work” to smooth over feelings.
Benefits of Socializing Your Projects
When we take the time to socialize projects before we actually start the project, we provide individuals with a “heads up” about what is going on and why. In this way, we provide a sense of comfort around the changes that will happen. It helps us to:
- Better manage expectations throughout the project
- Secure buy-in and commitment earlier on in the project
- See where we might be missing something that could cause significant rework or even project failure later on
- Convey to individuals that we are interested in their ideas, suggestions, thoughts, comments about the project
- Improve efficiencies and effectiveness in managing the project during execution
- Increased acceptance of the project upon implementation
I consider socializing the project to be part of the “define” or “pre-planning” phase of the project. It helps me to find out who is supportive of the project and who I’ll need to spend some more time with to make them comfortable and convert them to champions. Depending on the size and complexity of the project and the number of individuals impacted within the organization, I may plan for anywhere from two weeks to a few months to socialize an initiative.
Selling Socialization to Executives
If you are in an organization that has never socialized projects before launch, you may need to sell it to the executives. This is not as difficult as you think. First of all, in most cases, as a project manager, you know about projects coming along before they are actually ready to start. Begin socializing the project then if you can do so. When I’m working with clients to help them develop more effective and efficient ways of managing their projects, I make sure that plans include involving project managers very early on in decisions to initiative projects so that, prior to actual launch, time can be set aside to socialize the initiative. Rarely do we cut into project time. And, when we do cut into project time, we have shown, time and time again, that by socializing up front, we actually spend less time on the back end managing expectations of those impacted and get much more commitment which enables to improved management of the project throughout execution. Additionally, we have found in some situations, that by socializing the project, we learned a few things we did not know that would have derailed the project down the road.
Frequently we look at projects from the perspective of the organization’s view. We understand how the project will benefit the organization and why it is the right thing to do now. We tend to forget about the individual. The individual is the one who will be impacted by the project in some way. We need to consider the project from the perspective of the individual, who, while certainly concerned about the organization is also concerned about him/herself. It’s only natural. Going through this person’s mind are questions such as, “What will happen to my job?” “Will I be able to do the role when it changes?” “What if I don’t have the skills I need?” “How can I handle all of this when I have so much going on personally?” These are all valid concerns of individual employees and the most successful projects are run by those who work with the individual to address these concerns through a variety of ways, such as:
- All staff, or all hands, meetings
- Departmental meetings
- Small focus groups
- “lunch and learn” sessions
- Posters in the hallway
- Company portal (intranet)
- Internal newsletter
These are just a few ways to socialize the project throughout the organization. Always choose a variety of ways to reach the largest group of people.
Take the time to socialize your projects prior to their actual start. You’ll find that you will increase the commitment and support for the project which only makes your job of managing the project much easier in the long run. The benefits are many and well worth the extra effort involved. Remember also, that, periodically, throughout the project, as a best practice, continue to socialize it by checking in with individuals to be sure they are still on-board and feeling good about what is going on.