Getting sponsors and senior staff to agree on a project’s business objectives can sometimes be surprisingly difficult. While new initiatives often take shape around clear business needs, there may be times when sponsors aren’t unanimous in their expectations. One executive might see the need to increase productivity within their division as the project’s primary objective, for example, while another views department-level cost savings as the most important goal. Without strong stakeholder agreement on and support of the objectives, the project could be in danger of failing.
Achieving unity among sponsors is a fundamental part of project success. If your organization struggles to gain consensus among diverse stakeholder groups, consider these tips to get everyone on the same page when it comes to defining your initiative’s objectives.
Review the full list of project objectives with sponsors and confirm they understand what’s included. This may seem like a baseline strategy, but the amount of data flowing through the project stakeholder base can be truly overwhelming. Though more sponsors today have on-demand access to project data, but don’t be surprised if they aren’t familiar with the project’s complete scope or they don’t understand everything that’s entailed in moving the initiative to a successful completion. An inability to reach a consensus may stem from a simple lack of awareness, and your team can resolve it with a concerted push to empower sponsors with the knowledge to make good business decisions.
Reassess your project’s scope to see if it needs more definition. Ambiguity in project management often leads to trouble. Developing a project scope that’s both more explicit and more easily understandable enables you to increase consensus among sponsors while also avoiding a host of other problems down the road.
- Are the business objectives of your project clear?
- Have you spelled out the benefits of each deliverable?
Without complete clarity on what your project intends to deliver, disagreements on the overall objectives are sure to arise and they may hinder your ability to move forward until you provide enough definition to get everyone on the same page.
Narrow the effort’s scope as much as you reasonably can. Trying to balance too many deliverables across too many distinct functional areas is likely to set stakeholders up for conflict. It can be tremendously difficult for sponsors in different divisions to understand the needs of other groups, potentially leading to unwinnable arguments about which departments are more important or which contribute more to the organization’s bottom line. While many projects inherently cross over divisional lines, it’s important that stakeholders can see the value of each objective even if they don’t directly benefit their particular group. An overly broad project scope invites debate and doesn’t put you on a good footing for compromise.
Consider if your project’s scope is too ambitious. High-performing project teams are often eager to tackle big, complex projects, but when an initiative’s list of deliverables seems almost endless, sponsors might assume that adding just one more won’t be a burden. The resulting snowball effect can easily overrun your organization’s capabilities and set the stage for ongoing friction among stakeholders. This scenario makes for a problematic launch, and piling too much into one project can also lead to ongoing arguments about priorities, resource allocations, and timing. By working as a team to scale back on the scope during the planning phase, you can direct the conversation with sponsors and optimize your efforts. A more realistic project scope enables you to bring sponsors into agreement on what you want to accomplish now, plus earmark objectives that can be more efficiently addressed as part of a future project.