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Build strong relationships with the key stakeholders and find ways to align their personal objectives with those of the project. That will increase the odds that they support you in delivering successfully.
This behavior occurs a lot in organizations that do not have the necessary maturity in project management. It also influences that many organizations do not make clear the level of authority of the different roles within a project. A good solution to this situation would be the use of project tools such as project charter among others, in addition to acting as a leader to strengthen the team's ties
Make them to understand that they are the owners of the solution, not you. If they do not show interest sorry for them. You have to show the results to the ster com and the exec com and they have to act in consecuence.
What option do you have besides escalation? I'm assuming three things: you're the Project Manager, you're in a weak-matrix organization, and you'll be blamed by people above you if the project doesn't proceed as scheduled.
The people with whom you're working aren't being professional, and since you don't have authority over them it's not your responsibility to make them do their job. You should escalate the issue so their supervisors can get these people to do the work the project requires, and also as protection for yourself, so you can't be blamed for the project's failure to adhere to its schedule.
Escalation may not be good idea every time. Building a matrix for communication which can include what to report, how to report, the response time needed can be filled. This can be escalated and can be part of performance review.
Since the culture is one where emails are not read or responded to, it suggests an appropriate response will be to carry out organizational re-engineering, that will see a complete change in attitudes, beliefs and values, the present structure may no longer be fit for purpose. Organizations should be dynamic and pay attention to internal and external perturbations and respond accordingly.
It could be that, the present organizational climate is too negative to support performance.
This sounds like a cultural issue. In some organisations and countries it is nearly impossible to get fired as it has been demonstrated that actions do not have any direct consequences. In these situations you need to underline to each stakeholder and team member how their lives will immeasurable improved by the implementation of this project. Also look at implementing methods that work. If people do not read emails that speak to them directly by face to face meeting which may have a better impact. You may need to measure your approach to the team you manage.
Generally, a personal close relationship with key persons can help. You really need to find an effective way for communication and having them do something.
You may have to update your communication plan. If this culture is pervasive, you won't have the time or werewithall to fight this battle. Instead, adapt to the culture and make sure that your communication plan properly captures the new method of interaction with your stakeholders.
If, however, it is only a subset of the organization that has this attitude, I've been successful in pretending to escalate. If I don't get an answer, especially a necessary decision, I'll resend the email with the recipient's supervisor and mine copied. It's amazing how much it motivates people.
A public organization is often not efficient. What you describe look like it not one to blame when it doesn't work.
If you can't get a senior stakeholder or the sponsor to react, you'll have to make choices.
Keep your paper trail, that is sad. You can eventually do a post mortem with clear lessons learned.
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