Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | January 13, 2010

Why project managers should also be politicians?

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“Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell and having them look forward to the journey”

I need to warn you: this post can put you in trouble. The issue of organization’s politics is flammable, which in the wrong hands can cause to crisis, arguments and slow your progress.

But unless you are working in a vacuum or building yourself an igloo in the cold north (doing the work alone. Adding your family will add the politics), the organization’s politics are inherent part of any company in the modern times.

From some reasons, the organization’s politics term is always looked like negative thing. But when I talk about organization’s politics, I aimed to all the exposed and hidden relationships that exist in the organization and the way you can use them. These relationships are based on friendship, interests, hate, history and possible future gain. It does not different from any other part of the human society.

As project manager you are dealing with people. As your project become larger, your stakeholder amount increase. You are facing different forces pushing you to different directions, when all the time you are just searching the way to complete this work.

If your project is managed in a matrix structure you have additional problems. Your resources belong to different groups which have different ideas on how the project should be handled. You might find yourself working to mediate between different groups in the organization (which their disagreements are totally not connected to your project) instead working on your project plans.

So how you should disarmed this mine field without damaging your project and ruins your reputation and connections? 

Meetings are just for the protocol

Except the design meetings, training, business update and so, the good project manager will start his meetings after he already talked with all the important stakeholders. I tried to get agreement on the hard decisions in face to face meetings before I gather everyone.

Identify the key stakeholders, sit with them and get their agreement. If you are doing that correctly, the talks you will do in your floor café, might be more important than any presentation you will deliver in a meeting.  

Keep on good connections with the operations groups

Unless you are part of these groups, you will need to work hard to keep them close. The engineers and technicians from these groups can make your life miserable and in the other side, could be your life buoy.

 The operation groups have good connections with all the departments in the organization due to their day to day support. Through them you can build the right relationship that will help you push your project.

Identify the key stakeholders

In every group you should find the opinion leaders. Moving them to your side will help you get the group agreement. As I mentioned in the previous section, start with the operation groups. They have large influence (more than you think) due to their day to day interactions with the other departments.

Be careful in what you say

Remember – some things cannot be reversed.

To summarize the idea: you can avoid the politics during projects execution. Knowing what to do and how to act will improve your success chances.

Good luck!


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