Project Management

There can be only one (and it is not YOUR project)!

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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Managing a high priority project can be a wonderful experience.

You will usually receive ample support from senior leadership in resolving critical issues, getting funding for team celebrations is rarely a challenge, and helping team members and other key stakeholders understand the importance of the project and how its success will benefit them should be simple.

But this is rarely the case. Most of the time, we are working on initiatives which, while important, are not top of mind for your senior executives.

Here are just a few of the challenges with managing such projects:

  • Getting and sustaining senior leadership commitment and support is going to be much more difficult. Even your sponsor might have more important projects to support.
  • Keeping your team focused on delivering the project's scope, especially if they are also working on higher priority projects is a constant struggle.
  • Ensuring that functional managers remain responsive to changes in staffing needs and providing you with the "right" staff to get the job done won't be as easy.
  • Securing funding for more than the absolute bare minimum is tricky - especially contingency reserves or budget for team events.

So what can you do to improve your odds of success?

  • Practice effective, full life cycle risk management to reduce the number and impact of unpleasant surprises.
  • Consider using an incremental delivery approach so that your sponsor and other key stakeholders achieve an early and progressive return on their investment.
  • Spend extra effort emphasizing the holy trinity of purpose, autonomy & mastery to inspire your team members to do their best.
  • Double-down on team development through free or low-cost events and simple, but regular recognition of individual and team efforts. Help your team to identify the rituals and working agreements that will define team culture.
  • Have a "Plan B" handy so that if your staffing complement or funding gets slashed the team will still be able to deliver something of value. Wherever possible, structure your scope delivery to deliver higher value work packages early.
  • Take the time early in the life of the project to develop positive working relationships with the functional managers who will provide the staff for your team. Explore opportunities to help them achieve their goals through your project's success. For example, if they want to raise the competency level of their team members, identify stretch activities or other learning opportunities within the project which might address this. If you can earn some IOU's early on with these functional managers, those will come in handy down the road when you'll need their help.

"You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages." - Michelle Obama


Posted on: April 28, 2019 10:12 AM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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Awesome suggestion for managing project and ensuring success.
Thank you Kiron!!

Good insights Kiron, and thanks for sharing.

Great points. Thanks, Kiron.

Very good points as always, Kiron. Thanks !

Really great article Kiron.
I like the fact that you state that is NOT our project ... but rather everyone else's and if we are to succeed in delivering it successfully we need to proactively build a relationship with functional leaders.


Thank you for reminding PMs on the leadership and soft skills necessary for success on all projects - not just those that are senior management priorities. Risk management, personnel training, employee recognition, team building and contingency planning are added values from project management that are not always part of the tangible project asset.


Excellent blog, Kiron. I've grown to expect nothing less from you! The one that hit home for me right now is: "Getting and sustaining senior leadership commitment and support is going to be much more difficult. Even your sponsor might have more important projects to support." My company has been through a lot of changes lately, and this has been a challenge for me lately. Thank you for sharing.

If you've lost your sponsor, you've lost your project. I agree with your article and can take the other extreme viewpoint to help make the point.

If your sponsor becomes overly anxious about your project, you can expect a rough road ahead. Without building trust, they will need to get more involved than the sponsor role should require, It's up the PM to make it a success by building trust with the sponsor and the team, and by making sure the work is moving forward -- even when the team has conflicting priorities.

Very good article Kiron. Precisely noted the challenges and the proposed resolution path.

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