Project managers now proactively engage with key stakeholders - usually their project sponsor and operational managers. There is a marked improvement in the nature of the partnership relationships and the timely and appropriate identification of issues allowing for their swift resolution. CITI refers to this with clients as 'political collaboration'.
An initiative to develop project management capability had thrown into sharp relief the inappropriate techniques and approaches most of the project managers used to engage their sponsors, with the result that sponsors became disengaged and disenchanted with projects.
The Head of Learning & Development invited CITI in to address this problem and incorporate the learning of good sponsor engagement into the training programme. In practice this meant improving stakeholder engagement and political collaboration at M&G by engaging the delegates and their sponsors as 'stakeholders'.
Approach to solution
Project managers undergoing education on project management methodology were invited to discuss progress of their initiatives and to identify specific challenges they faced. Through a series of facilitated workshops their view was critiqued by colleagues (facilitated by CITI) specifically to identify areas of tension between the project manager and the sponsor. These typically ranged from lack of access to non-attendance of the sponsor at key events to 'micro-management' suffocating the project manager.
Specific potential solutions were then generated and incorporated into a 'stakeholder plan'. Additionally, head of Learning & Development created and managed 'delegate stakeholder plans' resulting in very different support options for the delegates, e.g. delegates in favour of the training programme were supported differently to those who saw little value in it!
The development of project managers should always be regarded as a change programme - and processes used in change programmes adopted. When developing technical project managers into those capable of running business benefits-driven projects the problem often is providing them with insights into how to engage with the personal and political aspects of projects. Experience is the best teacher, so if it can be arranged, getting these individuals to experience - be on the receiving end - of different stakeholder engagement processes is a highly effective technique.
Models / tools used
CITI stakeholder analysis techniques Facilitated workshops
"The classic training model, taking individuals out of the business to sit in a classroom for a week at a time, was not going to work for us. But at the same time, we knew we needed to raise our game in managing change. I have to say, your people are brilliant!"