Cultivate a Culture of Commitment

Successfully executing a project—particularly those that are complex, long, or highly disruptive—requires serious commitment. That means stakeholders and sponsors must be as dedicated as the Project Team team is to seeing the project through to the end. Unfortunately, the necessary level of commitment can sometimes be difficult to attain (and maintain).

If the project is unpopular, stakeholders may not be happy about participating. When faced with projects that are uncommonly long or that have stretches where visible progress is scarce—such as when efforts are focused in other areas—stakeholders’ attention may wane in favor of other day-to-day concerns. And some people just find it difficult to devote themselves to something they aren’t personally overseeing.

The good news is that project management professionals aren’t relegated to watching their project go down in flames just because a few stakeholders are wishy washy. Some straightforward strategies will help maintain commitment levels.

Identify commitment-phobes before the project begins. By knowing who the non-committal types are before the project gets underway, your team can more closely monitor each individual’s level of participation. Rather than simply reacting to the problems created when stakeholders aren’t fully committed, PMP®s will be able to help these particular people through the project with some extra attention.

Reinforce expectations. If stakeholders don’t see where their participation contributes to success, they’re much more likely to put their project-related commitments on the back burner. In addition, end users often assume they have few (if any) responsibilities when it comes to executing the project. Avoiding this scenario requires PMP®s to clearly relay expectations at the project’s outset. If tasks are assigned to stakeholders, that information should be distributed to them with explicit details on what is expected, when it must be completed, and what to do if they run into trouble along the way.

Regularly solicit feedback. Feedback shouldn’t just be relegated to comments about how things are going. Stakeholders should also be routinely encouraged to ask questions and to voice any concerns they may have. If they’re worried about a particular aspect of the project—upcoming work disruptions, for example—they may choose to simply ignore the entire issue until it’s no longer possible to do so. Ongoing worries may become so burdensome to stakeholders that they withdraw their commitment in the hopes their lack of participation will stop the project entirely.

Know who to contact if commitment levels remain low. Most projects have a good-sized percentage of stakeholders who are beholden to someone higher up the food chain. They may report to a director-level person who has their own interest in being involved in the project as a champion, or their department’s executive may be a sponsor of the project. No matter how the organization is structured, it’s important that PMP®s know where they can turn for help if a stakeholder continues to be non-committal about the project.

If a stakeholder’s lack of engagement is merely irritating but not truly disrupting progress, then PMP®s will need to use their discretion in how hard they push for help from the higher-ups. On the other hand, if a stakeholder has project responsibilities that aren’t being met, then those in their reporting structure need to know someone in their group is hindering the project’s chances of success. The funding that stands to be wasted is just one aspect those in the higher levels of the organization will be keen to address. If the project will give the company a competitive advantage or if it’s part of a regulatory requirement, then ensuring their team is giving it their full support will likely be of primary importance.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.

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