While PMP®s already know the importance of adhering to budgets and keeping end users happy, there are some other, less obvious missteps that might spark the ire of the executives. If your project team finds itself on the receiving end of unexpected high-level scrutiny or dissatisfaction, take a minute to see if you’ve inadvertently taken an action that sometimes doesn’t sit well with executive groups.
1 – Communicating directly with end users. Rarely will the leadership team want to review every message between end users and the project team, but some executives are hyper-sensitive about how and when certain pieces of information are relayed to individuals under their purview. They may be keen to soften the blow when the news isn’t likely to be to end users’ liking or they might just be control freaks. It’s also possible that they want to act as a gateway for any requests or feedback end users try to relay directly to the project team. Either way, your team’s good intentions and strong communication skills could undermine your relationship with the leadership-level stakeholders. During the project’s planning phase, be sure to confirm everyone’s expectations when it comes to communicating news and other information.
2 – Bringing a project in too far under budget. Whether it’s due to falling material costs or simply great negotiation skills on the part of the team’s PMP®s, a project that’s completed well under budget could lead to funding problems or other issues down the road. The executive group may be skeptical of future budget projections, skimping just because they think they can. Or they may start siphoning funds from other projects the Project Team is overseeing, expecting the team will be able to bring them in under budget as well. Neither is a good situation, and may put PMP®s in difficult circumstances later. Any significant deviation from the approved budget should be highlighted and explained as soon as it’s identified, so that stakeholders can better understand why expenditures aren’t jiving with the projections. Don’t let an anomaly become the expected.
3 – Choosing vendors without consulting key stakeholders. There may be times when an influential sponsor wants to utilize a vendor of their own choosing on a project. If the Project Team isn’t aware of that preference—or if the external partner isn’t on any approved vendor list that may already exist and must be added—it could be an uncomfortable situation for the team. The organization may be left to terminate the services of a vendor that has already been contracted for the project, which could lead to additional costs. The new vendor may also take some time to come up to speed on their role, putting the project behind schedule. If there’s any inkling that a high-level stakeholder may want to offer their input on which outside parties are used, the team should plan to vet the vendor list with them early in the project’s lifecycle.
4 – Executing multiple projects at once. Because most executive sponsors have little knowledge of advanced project management methodologies, they could panic when they discover the Project Team isn’t focused solely on their pet project. It’s possible they’ll begin micromanaging (or worse). Ironically, because many organizations run a lean project office to keep staffing and overhead levels low, the leadership group itself could have a difficult time reconciling their desire for personalized service with the need to maintain an efficient organization. If this translates into a request for a smaller but dedicated project team, the Project Team will need to decide quickly if, given the current workload, they can support that structure or if they’ll need to push back.