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Project Management Templates and Politics

September 23 2009

Every project has its fair share of politics. And as a Project Manager it’s your job to cut through it to make sure that your project stays on track and delivers the outcome expected. But it’s no easy job. So you might like to read this newsletter to learn…

How to Manage Project Politics

What happens when your Project Sponsor wants a slightly different outcome for the project than your Customer, Management Team and other Stakeholders want? The answer is that each party tries to influence the project to get what they want—and this is known as “Project Politics”.

The result is that the team are constantly pushed in different directions, trying to keep everyone happy, but not really doing what they were originally tasked to do which was to deliver a single outcome for the project.

In this scenario, the project team becomes stressed, confused, de-motivated and inefficient. So it’s your job as a Project Manager to ensure this doesn’t happen. Here’s how to prevent it (other than using Project Management Templates).

Step 1: Create a Project Board

The most critical but challenging step is to get everyone to agree to the same project scope and objectives. The easiest way to do this is to form a Project Board and include your Sponsor, Customer and other people that may influence the project at some point. The purpose of the board is to control the scope of the project and make sure that specific targets are set and achieved.

By forming a Project Board, you can let them thrash out the politics themselves and come to a consensus. You then have only one party to manage and if they want to divert the project onto other tasks, at least you have their combined approval. If you include all of the “influencers” within the Board, you can task them with giving you a single, consistent vision. That way, there is no confusion as to what must be done to deliver the project and people are not pulled in different directions all of the time. You can also keep the Project Board focused by using Project Templates and a methodology for Project Management Consulting.

Step 2: Build Relationships

Just because you have a board, doesn’t mean there are no politics. It just makes it easier to manage. As a Project Manager, you still need to reduce the politics within the board by building close relationships with each board member. Find out what they need, by when and why. This will help you steer them in the right direction when they meet as a group.

Build close relationships by meeting each board member regularly to find out what they need from the project and why they need it. By listening to their needs, you’re securing their buy-in and you may be able to save heated board meetings by presenting them with solutions instead of problems.

Risk Plan Project Management Template.

Step 3: Manage Change

The biggest risk to a project is that the goal posts move, causing continuous change to the project scope. This is a breeding ground for project politics, because every stakeholder will have their own wants and needs to be met—and they may not all be consistent with one another.

So you need to manage change carefully by putting in place a formal process for managing it. Your process should involve documenting each Change Request, why it’s needed and the impact to the project in implementing it. The Change Request (project management template) should then be presented to the Project Board for review and approval. You need to make sure that when it’s approved the board also approve the extra time, money and people needed to implement it.

By creating a Project Board and forming close relationships with each board member, you’ll cut through politics to ensure your project success. You can then control changes to the project so that you can achieve success.