Networking Practices for Project Results

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Categories: Best Practices

Last week I attended my first formal networking how-to event. I was curious to learn about the differences and similarities between general networking and networking for project success.

What interested me the most was a slide detailing three types of networks: operational, personal and strategic.

In the project environment, networking for operational, personal and strategic goals is a core competency for project managers and team members. In all my training sessions, I always repeat the statement "90 percent of a project management job is communication."

In fact, I go as far as to say networking is a skill that can lead to project success. For example, networking comes in handy in the following areas:

With stakeholders:
On projects we talk to all our internal and external stakeholders on a regular basis. Therefore, we have to network.

We network to acquire and manage resources, vendors and contractors, and also to ascertain and explore risks, strengths and opportunities for the project.

Our personal objectives can be met because well managed, informed and engaged stakeholders equals a happier project manager.

In project communications planning:
Project objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound). Similarly, project-networking activities should be smart too.

Networking activities should:
  • Assess the quality of working relationships
  • dentify where better relationships are required in order to complete the project
  • Develop a wide support network
  • Follow up on tasks or commitments
  • Build and maintain relationships to get the job done
  • Focus and pursue the right networks understand where they fit in and how to communicate with them effectively, know their likes and dislikes and what motivates them.
Within the project team:
Project managers must have networking skills to successfully engage, lead and build the team. These skills will enable the project manager to be a mentor and leader of the team.

Project managers should network with their teams to delegate, collaborate, motivate and ensure they work together.

With interpersonal skills:
Networking can help project managers build self-confidence, and devote time and strategy to build and reciprocate through meaningful networks. Plus, meeting others and finding common ground and mutual areas of benefit and collaboration is always helpful to a project manager.

I can confidently assume that since the history of projects, good project managers have been networking out of necessity or risk project failure.

Certainly in my own case, I have been naturally 'networking' without really knowing that I was doing it. The difference now is that I am more aware.

What do you think is a networking best practice? Is project success dependent on a project manager's networking abilities? What benefits has networking brought to your projects? What role has networking played in your projects?
Posted by Saira Karim on: October 13, 2011 11:59 AM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Haider Amir Mechant
Hello Saira,

Good topic and well narrated. Short and to the point.

I believe everyone has a network irrespective of whether they are project managers or not.

Networking starts since we start interacting with people. Kids have their network as well. Would a circle of friends not be called a network ? A club is place to network. Social gaherings, parties are network points. Our colleagues at work are a network. We have networks all around us, which are known by different names.

Specific to project management, of course, a good network is required to make any project a success. Like you said SMART communication will help you develop a network. The network will bring all the stakeholders on the same platform and will ensure your success in the project.

Nadja Schroeer-Petranovskaja
I fully agree with you, most of us do naturally 'networking' without really knowing that we do it. My best experience is not to filter my potential network partner in advance - you never know, who is the important person for you mext project step, so do networking with everyone - with high level management and the back office, with tecnicians and purchasing... Let the people know who you are, let them feel that you have same interests - make your company successfull - and make them curious about your project.

Robert Kelly
As I speak with fellow project managers, clients, and various other contacts; two of the most common criteria for the success of project initiatives include: good communication & end-user adoption. To me, one feeds the other...strong communication will aid in increased adoption.

In the context of this post, networking really is just good communication...personal communication. As PMs, we are used to investigating the who's who of the organization, understanding the strategy and creating broad communication updates (email, newsletters, etc). Where many PMs fall short is in the personal aspect. They tend to get caught up in Gantt Charts and newsletters that they forget to walk the halls and reach out.

As a PM you have your lead in. "Hey John Doe, my name is so and so and I am PM'ing the upcoming X initiative. I really wanted to get a few minutes with you to understand your space, how your team operates, and how this effort may or may not effect you".

No one is saying to include him or her on your project team, but just reaching out goes a long way. Once you have done this, put a note on your calendar...."Reach out to network" prior to sending that organization blast email. Contact your network and give them a personal touch...."Hey John, we spoke about 2 weeks ago on the X initiative. I was getting ready to send an organizational announcement but wanted to call you ahead of that and let you know specifically for your space there have been no changes. Hey, don't forget if you have any questions or concerns about where this project is, give me a call."

This personal communication/networking, will do a few things that will all increase adoption....

1) Removes the opportunity for people to say, "I didn't know".
2) Gets that initial response of "no way" out of the way earlier vs. at launch
3) Makes them feel included and a bit more 'responsible' for the initiative's success
4) Reduces time wasted by squashing rumors of delays or time required to fix an assumptions
6) Creates an environment of professional courtesy and trust. Folks in other groups will more likely call you first if their support is about to waver...before going to Sr Mgmt.

If you are having a difficult time networking...ask the project sponsor or other team members if they can make an introduction to a key stakeholder.

Networking is crucial and requires strong communication to be effective, which in the end will help increase user adoption.

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