Without a sponsor, your project will fail.
One company I worked with a few years ago initiated a large-scale, transformative change, which would impact how they went to market with some of their products and services. They had a great project structure, with project managers, administrators, and well-qualified technical support. They had a change and communications team that was well positioned to help them communicate about the change and prepare the organization. Ultimately, though, the project struggled for 2-3 years before senior executives decided to cancel the project. It failed to achieve most of the benefits they sought after.
What went wrong? There was insufficient leadership involvement. Yes, there were lower-level leaders who had an interest in the success of the project, but there was no single sponsor or sponsor coalition to hold the team accountable for results and mitigate project risks. One of the greatest risks which ultimately led to the end of the project was conflicting requirements of low-level leaders. I call this cross functional dysfunction.
Projects that have solid project management and change management teams cannot be successful without adequate sponsorship. They will suffer from these conditions:
Every project, regardless of size, requires a sponsor who is clear on their role as ultimate spokespersons for the change, and holds the project team accountable for delivery. The activities of a great sponsor include:
The organizational level of the sponsor depends on the breadth of the change. The rule of thumb is that ultimately, everyone significantly impacted by the change should have a direct reporting relationship to the sponsor. For example, if the change impacts everyone in the manufacturing operation, then the VP of Manufacturing would be the likely sponsor. If the change impacts everyone in accounting, then the Accounting Executive is the sponsor. You get the idea.
When your project structure includes solid sponsorship, at the right level, you will have a much better chance of achieving the intended results, thus driving the value you planned.
What is the leadership role that a project manager needs to play to navigate the complexities in today’s business environment? A cheerleader, a manager or the captain of the team. Is that a constant or needs to be adapted according to the situation?
In order to answer these questions, let’s take a cue from the medical industry. A varying ECG shows we are healthy and a seemingly straight line shows we aren’t. Even an ECG has to keep changing to show everything is fine, so how about ourselves: do we change or remain the same?
When we internalise change, we would be less anxious about the external changes as we are countering the external changes by our own internal force of change, so instead of showing inertia as in the Newton’s First Law, we are actually playing along with the change activating a Force multiplier!
Having established beyond doubt that change is vital, we could explore the reality that we have reached a point of inflection, wherein technology adoption has increased so exponentially that human processes have not been able to catch up. In all this, what does the Project Manager do or change to make his projects click?
Well, the key lies in making the human connections work! No matter what structures we put in place, what latest technologies we adopt, what new management principles we adopt, the improvisations will fall flat if the human factor is discounted. A Gallup study in 2020, showed that only around 15% of global workforce is effectively engaged at work. So how do Project Managers address this huge gap? How do they keep the team engaged, improve team productivity at the office or in a Work-from-home scenario and ensure fulfilment of project outcomes?
It all boils down to the Project Manager’s relationship with the team. It becomes all the more important that the PM is capable of seamlessly transitioning across the roles as a cheerleader, a manager and the captain of the team so that the team feels more engaged, empowered at all times and never feels let down.
A Project Manager as a cheerleader encourages the team to keep looking for ideas and solutions for challenges, cheers them on and creates a supportive work environment.
As a Manager, the PM establishes the structure of work, working on the communications, allocating resources, exhibiting accountability and responsibility for the Team performance.
As a Captain of the Team, the PM leads the Team from the front, navigating effectively through conflicts, facing challenges head on gaining the Team’s trust and respect.
These roles keep evolving and the Project Manager also needs to evolve as per the situations at hand, humanizing their interactions so they become more collaborative rather than transactional in nature. Instead of the conventional roles and responsibilities, the new age roles equip the new age leaders better to complete their projects successfully and lead their teams to success.
Identify your stakeholders
Stakeholders are people, groups or organisations that could affect, be affected or perceive to be affected by any decision, activity or outcome of the project.
It is important that all stakeholders are identified regardless of how major or minor they are. This is because they will be categorized after they are identified. If stakeholders are omitted there is a likelihood that they may become evident at some point during the project’s lifecycle and introduce delays or other obstacles to the project’s success.
Stakeholder analysis is the process by which you identify your project’s stakeholders:
Any individual who meets one or more of the above criteria can be identified as a stakeholder. Stakeholders from the same organization can be grouped in order to simplify stakeholder management.
Once you have identified your stakeholders you can analyse the list (your Stakeholder Register) and categorized or grouped them assigning a level of impact they may have based on their power, influence, and involvement in the project. You should also add any description which might be helpful to plan your stakeholder engagement. How could the project stakeholders identified in the previous section be impacted by the project? Do any of the stakeholders link/relate with each other? You can also visualise your project’s stakeholders on a power/interest grid and prioritise them based on the grid.
A stakeholder analysis is very beneficial because:
Plan your stakeholder engagement
Once you have identified and analysed your stakeholders in the stakeholder register, you can develop a Stakeholder Engagement Plan. In the plan you should describe how stakeholders will be approached and by whom in the project team, as well as how often the project team will communicate with them.
First you need to carry out a stakeholder engagement assessment: what is the current level of engagement of each stakeholder? What is the desired engagement level? You will prioritise your stakeholder engagement based on the power/interest grid and your stakeholders’ engagement levels:
Once you have prioritised your stakeholders you need to decide how to engage with them, that is, how you will communicate with them throughout the project. What information about the project will be communicated to which stakeholders? How will the communication be delivered and when? Who will be in charge of the communication? How often will feedback be requested from the stakeholders? How will the feedback be implemented in the project?
Receiving feedback from your stakeholder is crucial in research projects because engaging with your stakeholders by listening to their feedback and incorporating their needs in your research means.
Communication is key to stakeholder management
Communication is crucial for stakeholder engagement because it is the most powerful tool:
You should communicate and work with your stakeholders often throughout the project to meet their expectations and needs, address issues as they occur and foster appropriate engagement strategies. The timing of your communication with your stakeholders is also important. Engagement at appropriate stages helps to obtain or confirm their commitment to the success of the project.
Keep an agile mindset
Research projects are a way to explore the unknown and in most cases, you do not know what to expect as a result. Keeping an agile mindset helps address changes that might occur along the way and overcome challenges. This is important also when engaging with your stakeholders so here are some points to keep in mind to embrace change:
Within PMI’s online community, ProjectManagement.com, a group of volunteers organizes monthly webinars on the topic of Change Management. To complement this webinar series, they also maintain a blog, Transformation & Leadership – Insider Tips, featuring lessons learned and diverse perspectives from experienced professionals. This team is currently looking for someone to assist with their endeavors to advance conversations around change management and provide tips and tools to the online community (in a volunteer capacity).
The volunteer blog & webinar coordinator is responsible for sourcing, working with, and facilitating presenters through:
1) the webinar development process; and
2) the blogging process for the Transformation & Leadership blog
He/she will host practice sessions for presenters and help facilitate live webinars for the team in the area of Change Management. The volunteer will also work with presenters to contribute change management content to the blog. The volunteer should be an active team member who is enthusiastic about providing great webinars and blog posts to the community on ProjectManagement.com.
This volunteer will:
• Meet with team on a regular basis to discuss plans for webinar & blog program
• Assist in planning webinars and provide updates as necessary
• Coordinate scheduling of webinars and complete PMI presenter forms for each webinar
• Coordinate and facilitate presenter practice sessions
• Host live webinar sessions (about one webinar per month)
• Coordinate scheduling of blog posts for the Transformation & Leadership blog, and review blog content to ensure compliance with User Guidelines
The estimated time commitment is 4-5 hours per month with weekly team meetings - all virtual. The volunteer should have strong project, program, and/or portfolio management skills and understand and commit to PMI’s objectives and goals around increasing member value and knowledge delivery. PMI membership is required for this role. This is a team of volunteers, so flexibility is needed, and experience with Webex is strongly encouraged. PDUs for Giving Back can be claimed in accordance with the policies outlined in your credential's handbook.
If you are interesting in volunteering, please contact Laura Schofield via the Inbox on ProjectManagement.com with:
-your statement of interest
-an explanation of any experience that you have facilitating webinars
by 30 June 2021. An interview with shortlisted candidates and the volunteer team will be conducted.
The group of contributors is made of practicing project managers to help build their leadership skills, learning from the best minds of all times. Please note we are not endorsing any specific book or piece of content. The material is used only as a framework for the members to transform how they perform as leaders through principles discovered and applied to specific situations that Project Managers encounter.
The group recently completed reading Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillps. Key learnings from a Project Management perspective have been summarized in this post. The extraordinary challenges Lincoln faced as President while the United States was engaged in civil war and his leadership actions in response are arranged in the theme categories (sections) of People, Character, Endeavor, and Communication. Some elements of Lincoln’s life prior to his Presidency were reviewed as well.
We learned how Lincoln’s leadership actions demonstrated the golden principles. We explored the leadership principles practiced by Lincoln and reflected on ways to incorporate them into daily practices and interactions. In this way, leadership situations Lincoln experienced can be leveraged to develop and enhance individual leadership skills in a transformational way.
Key Leadership Learnings
Know your audience - frame your message to suit your audience. Use clear and simple language. Don’t use terms or abbreviations unknown to your audience.
One on one conversation - speaking one on one is a good technique to win over a friend or rival to adopt your position.
Use anecdotes - be a good story teller to illustrate your point of view. People will understand the message in the story and remember it going forward.
Humor - use of humor is effective in disarming people and putting people at ease.
Lincoln worked diligently on the Gettysburg address. His few minute speech is considered one of the best speeches of all time. The speaker before Lincoln spoke for 2 hours, yet nobody remembers who the speaker was or his speech.
Character is very important for an effective leader - people will choose to follow a leader who establishes trust through his/her actions and character.
“Have malice toward none and charity for all”
Failure builds character - Do not let failures diminish your drive. Learn from the experience as a foundation to try again with greater knowledge.
Management by walking around - meet your team members on their own turf, get out into the field.
Delegate effectively - provide opportunities for other. After communicating expectations, do not hesitate to take action if people are not performing.
Believe in yourself - know yourself and promote your values. Remain determined.
This video addresses additional scenarios discussed by participants, including how they would apply these learnings to real-world scenarios faced by Project Managers.