If you run a larger project and you want to make it happen, it is often fascinating that most of the projects are 90% of the time 90% done. The only question remains: why the hell are we never quite getting done 100%?

Your project is not relevant

It is certainly no secret that most of the tasks that people in organizations do to complete projects, or rather their contributions to projects are not fixed on their annual goals list. This is one of the reasons why project managers need to prove “effective stakeholder management”, why they need to get the “buy-in from stakeholders and subject matter experts”. Why should anyone support the project at hand, they are so busy achieving their goals, agreed-upon with their superiors and basis of the incentives? In their view, your project is not relevant.

Making projects happen is selling

The answer is selling. Selling solutions, selling opportunities, selling personal advantages for that particular person that you are dealing with. First of all, any project manager or change manager needs to sell the advantages and personal benefits of that particular project to the person sitting in front of them. Eventually, they are required to provide resources: their own knowledge and time, the manpower of their team members, sometimes even budgets… the list goes on. Further, project managers need to sell the solutions which will be created, by making their project happen, to any affected subject matter experts and other employees. While all the stakeholders side the emphasis is more on the means and resources, in here subject matter knowledge this vital and required. Always make the perspective change: Why should a subject matter expert support you with answers to your questions? What is there gain? This, in turn, brings us to another important aspect: trust.

Trust – or: why delegation can destroy everything

Trust is the basis of all effective project management. If stakeholders and subject matter experts trust you, they won’t open up to you and support you. Here are some common mistakes, which tend to create mistrust and block any effective project management. Many people in leadership positions may act at times in a cynical or sarcastic way. The other thing is to first delegate tasks, only to micromanage them later – asking people in short intervals “how they are doing”. This will create thinking on the other end of the message such as why is he giving me this task in the first place if he doesn’t trust me to be able to complete it? Try to set yourself a “control date”, to review your direct reports results and to have some buffer time to make amendments. When you criticize someone, always criticize up their behavior rather than the person.

You have all the time in the world

It is vital not to focus on time management, but rather on priorities stop before you work out how to complete a task in the most efficient way, first ask yourself: what are the main steps, the milestones that I need to achieve in order to complete this project successfully? Whose buy-in do I need to who support? How can I communicate in the most effective way? Who do I need to involve and how can I do that? If you are selective with the key steps to make, and diligently work out how you proceed with them, then time will not be the big issue that it often is. However, time will inevitably run out before reaching the goal line, if you did not take the time, in the beginning, to plan properly. It is often an activity that looks very simple in the first place which will create most issues to struggle with. Here is an example: if you want to semi-automate communication between millions of customers and your company, you may need key technology and you may think that suppliers will be happy to deliver in time whatever deadline you give them. Wrong. You may find that 1) the board already has a preferred supplier list that you never knew of, 2) each supplier provides quite different solutions and that this gets you back to square one where you need to create a repressed for proposal with a proper business case, or 3) the delivery time of the request solution is taking much longer than expected, and then even more due to customizing. You do have all the time in the world – if you plan properly ahead and set clear priorities.

Deal with the fear first – before you want to make changes

With the ever-growing need for more productivity, many organizations are constantly changing: processes, structures, and above all technology. This often increases fears among employees and sometimes anger. Some wonder whether they can cope with the newly introduced technology. Some fear that organizational changes may make them redundant. Some may be annoyed by the new processes and technical changes that “slow them down” and “make things too complicated” – not seeing the larger picture. This can cost the overall acceptance of e.g. a new ERP or CRM system or seriously block structural change. People sometimes refuse to work with the new system and simply keep on using the old one, as is it may be still available. Or they complain about the worker’s council. All this will cost at least a thousand, sometimes millions of pounds. The topic here is not the change itself, but human behavior. Technology suppliers and project teams often simply underestimate the complexity of behavioral change. It is assumed that after an introduction of the changes staff will simply adapt to them. That if there were any issues, employees will raise them and discuss the opening with suppliers and project people. Wrong. It is human nature to protect oneself. Everyone, especially these days, wants to make sure they keep their job. Therefore, nobody wants to seem incompetent, and everybody wants to be seen as a team player, not criticizing too much.

If issues with the changes should be reported to one’s superior, this will increase the problem, as any discussions about the changes and no part of the overall picture of oneself in the Superior’s eyes. For many project managers, this comes as a surprise. Even worse: in most cases, they only learn quite late in the project about the planned changes being blocked. Many projects steps need to be repeated, often several times. Project managers need to deal with fears and anger among employees, offering options to deal with the change and working with the member of staff to chose an option and put it into practice.

I will elaborate further on this main topic further in the following blog postings of this series. If you are interested, please do feel free to register to our executive education series.

Would you like further information? Do you have questions or suggestions? We look forward to your call, email or letter. You can contact us via the following methods:

Jens Moeller Consulting Ltd.
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