Project managers face some monstrous challenges when going through the process of defining, planning and managing projects in complex work environments. In the midst of the project madness, to add to the situation, you have your clients and stakeholders sparking quandaries over which part of the project should receive the most focus; often emitting conflicting signals forcing the project manager into a reactionary response. The end result of this? The project is thrown out of balance and the project cycle is no longer systematic.
In order to alleviate the "cry wolf" dramatics of stakeholders whilst maintaining a consistent level of progress through the duration of the project ensuring that all phases and elements receive the highest levels of attention possible, project managers need to find a working method of navigation that enables them to mediate the internal and external demands. So the question remains, how do you find a balance?
There are three key elements that form the foundation of a project – within these three elements are notions from which a project can be successfully managed. These notions, when wholly understood and accepted by the project management team, are a quintessential part of the solution to mitigating external stakeholder demands and preventing them from affecting internal project work requirements.
The three key elements are as follows:
1. Understanding the purpose -
The underlying theme here is the alignment of stakeholders. Whilst project managers are primarily concerned with defining deliverables and scope, the vision of stake-holders is tunneled towards their primary concern of the deliverables meeting their desired business outcome. Their outcome will be constantly measured against two things: the length of time to achieve the outcome, and the cost. Stakeholders/clients can at times become blind-sighted by their pedant tendencies that arise out of their worry for achieving the agreed upon deliverables. As a project manager, a worried stakeholder means that you will be inundated with recommendations, concerns and questions with ideas that often conflict with each other let alone the initial project scope. Getting around client interference can be as simple as being as thorough as possible with every piece of information passed over to them – transparency is great, but you can nullify curiosity simply by including a business outcome at the end of each explanation. For example, "we’re waiting on the DNS server which takes about 72 hours to transfer, however the end result will see your website go live and your various domain names working correctly."
2. Executive Commitment -
In large conglomerations, every big project should be sponsored by an executive manager. The meaning of this is pretty basic; however it will be reiterated to elucidate the process for project managers struggling to manage the decision making. Yes, the project manager is completely responsible for the outcome of the project, however, executives should be called upon as supporting resources for decision making. By doing this, a project manager provides reassurance by giving evidence of an executive endorsement of crucial decisions that have been made.
3. Shared sense of urgency -
It should be pretty obvious to understand that the processes of the project should denote a shared sense of urgency and desire for the project’s quality and completion by both the project management team and the stakeholders. For project managers, this element will not be in balance when the priority of the project is questioned as they will know that themselves and the project team is not projecting a positive workflow. On the other hand, the stakeholders themselves are also liable if they’re not committing any resources to aid to project completion. Their needs to be a mutual contribution, a clear channel of communication and a shared sense of urgency.
All of the above points emphasise the importance of a common-sense approach to project management. Sometimes common sense can be blinded by forces that will accost your attention – just stay focused and keep your eye on the goal ahead!