I was chatting with a friend recently about a project she is on that she described in her own words as a ‘master disaster’ – timelines in jeopardy, cost overruns, unrealistic expectations, and frustrated team.
I thought back to my own experiences and research and my first and only question was ‘how is everyone communicating?’ That’s when even more of the story came out; the sponsor was too busy, the PM direction was unclear, status reports were so vague that they were not meaningful, etc. Tell me if you’ve heard this song before? As painful as it is to recall, I know that I have been there more times than I care to admit.
Now, I don’t believe there is a silver bullet, or a simple solution to these things but in my experience, without a solid foundation of project communications, these challenges become even more difficult to overcome.
Getting the engagement of the project sponsor is a very common and very challenging issue in our typically busy work environments. Executives often have little bandwidth and like to get information in quick digestible chunks with less detail, and more of a summary/conclusion. Often us project people are, and need to be, very detail focused. We commonly have trouble communicating without providing the proof and related detail, sticking strictly with the facts.
To be effective with our business sponsor, we need to do the following things:
1. Build trust and rapport: Use your judgment, be honest with your sponsor, and provide your message in business terms. Honesty often means taking on personal risk, and that’s not easy. A savvy sponsor will reward you with their trust and will get better outcomes. If your sponsor wants ‘yes men’, then they get what they deserve.
2. Communicate at their level: Be clear about what you need from your sponsor; are you providing them with information? Are you asking for a decision to be made? Or, are you asking for help to get resources or remove obstacles?
3. Be persistent: Remember, there is a big difference between persistence and annoyance. Persistence is tactful, timely, appropriate, and based upon a strong conviction in the importance of the message.
As simple as these steps are, it is surprising how often they are neglected.
Good project communication is a foundational element for effective projects, and good communication with your business sponsor is critical. At Project X it’s all about the conversation.
Next time we will talk about communication with other stakeholders and the project team.
Have you found these issues within your projects?
How did you resolve them?