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Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't Be a Victim of Politics

Politics and projects go hand in hand. Team conflict, competing agendas, stakeholder dysfunction, resource constraints, and a myriad of other challenges exist and will send your project careening out of control if not managed properly.

What is a project manager to do? Here is a list of things to keep in mind when managing projects in a highly politicized environment:

Learn to negotiate from a position of strength

Do everything you can to educate those around you about Project Management. Stress the benefits and overcome the objections by pointing to your successes.

Master the art of influence.

Understand that masterful politicians are sometimes helpful to you and your project, but can also be detriment to your project's success.

An effective executive sponsor can help minimize political time wasting events that slow project progress and increase project budgets.

Recognize that conflict on your project is inevitable and necessary. How you respond to conflict will determine how successful you are.

Mastering the art of negotiation is a critical skill for project managers.

Negotiate up front how much power you will have as project manager, how and where it can be used, and when it applies to securing needed resources for your project.

Realize that for the most part internal politics wastes time and is usually not something that people enjoy.

Team commitment and loyalty will help to minimize project politics.

Don't fight a political system you don't understand and can't influence. Leave that to the experts. (Hint: get these experts to support your project if possible).

A good communications plan will help to lessen the politics on your project.

Every project usually has at least one "politician" in the organization that is out to either sabotage it, or will try to ensure that it isn't fully implemented.

Recognize that change (which is what projects are all about) scares some people and your project's deliverables can lead to a loss of power or influence for certain individuals or departments. Anticipate this and have a plan to deal with the behaviors that will surface.

Successful project managers need to learn to "swim with the sharks" and not get bitten. They need to be determined, focused, and act professionally and ethically. Project managers must know how to relate to people and manage relationships by being effective leaders and by applying the right balance of negotiating skills, motivational techniques, team building, and optimized communications.

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