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Stakeholder engagement, influence & persuasion - in short, all the interpersonal skills it takes to be a successful PM. If the project is critical to the organization OR you have a sponsor who has sufficient political clout you can usually overcome such challenges but where it can be extremely difficult is if it is a low priority project and the sponsor doesn't have the ability to influence his/her peers to throw their support behind it. In such cases, a healthy dose of risk management is often the only solution...
I was in a situation were the project sponsor didn't had much influence, so this person was not able to get the complete support from the management. It looks like to me that conflict usually arises because of the inequity, and rather than making the situation more equal, some project stakeholders becomes defensive instead of taking responsibility.
Understanding human motivation will go a long wait to assisting you with communication issues. I wish they had more on communication and psychology in the PMBOK.
Anish - I agree on what Kiron suggested; key is to really understand the situation regarding the different stakeholders position and identifying the risks / problems arising from that for the project. If the sponsor - as in your case - has not the power to support the project in an appropriate way you have a problem: If you don‘t find a real sponsor with empowerment you should stop the project because you will not get all resources needed to complete ... (risk analysis should show this as a result)
I work for the federal government, so issues of power, influence and self-interest have been a part of nearly every project I’ve managed. I believe PMs should invest time and effort establishing relationships with key individuals within an organization, especially if they’re not already a stakeholder in one of the PM’s projects. In this way PMs will have communication channels they can use when necessary. I have frequently been in situations where I was able to circumvent communication blockages only because of the relationships I has previously established.
A good way to do this is to ask a key individual if they need any help with project management-related tasks within their group. People within most companies seldom go out of their way to offer assistance to those in other divisions. This will do much to make a favorable impression with the key individual and help establish a relationship with them that might prove valuable at a later time.
What you stated is a situation in particular. I do not agree with you about the upper management block the communication. On the other side, I discuss lot of times (including last week I was part of the PMI World Tour) about thing related to communication mainly the 90% percentage. In fact, what we do in our daily life?. But, returning to the point, the thing you have to take into account when you are assigned to an initiative is: you have to make people working for the project when you have no formal power over them and often they are in "multitasking mode". It does not matter the position inside the organizational pyramid. While I am not a sales person, to deal with that I am using a selling method named "Solution Selling" or "SPIN Selling". We are using it to perform all related to project stakeholder management which is key to plan things like communication, risks, etc.
Thank you all for the comments and suggestions. I really appreciate your time on this.
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