Remote Project Management: Gain Support by Easing Stakeholder Fears

Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of becoming unpopular with sponsors and executives—fear in all its forms can be a significant hurdle for project teams and the sponsors who support them. The problem only widens when people are working remotely. Some groups don’t have strong communication channels, a necessity when it comes to overcoming fear. Others employ processes and methodologies that are too vague, unstructured, or inconsistent to instill confidence in your stakeholders that your team has control over potentially risky situations. Your group will enjoy more enthusiastic support and a more collaborative environment if you focus on putting those fears to rest.

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A primary consideration as you go about planning and executing projects is to maintain transparency around your activities. This helps to eliminate stakeholder fears that you may be making decisions or directing work in a way that isn’t consistent with sponsors’ expectations or with your organization’s overall mission. With work happening offsite and little ability for people to see project progress for themselves on a regular basis, a good remote project management strategy leans heavily on transparency to address any fears team members or other stakeholders may have about how initiatives are being managed.

This means you should be transparent in your decision-making process, too. Define how project decisions are made and who’s involved in making them. It’s a key component in any fear-busting strategy, because while a PM may understand how decisions are made, others—the rest of your group, your senior staff, and your project’s end users—don’t always share the same level of insight. Stakeholders might worry you aren’t making good decisions and your team could become fearful that a lack of understanding will hamper their ability to respond knowledgeably to inquiries about why things are being handled in a certain way.

Stakeholders who don’t participate in decision-related discussions might see your evaluation and selection process as nothing more than a frightening black box. In a remote environment, the need to develop and distribute clear and concise procedural guidelinesis heightened. If you’re consistent in communicating your processes and sticking to them when any key decision must be made, you’ll help quell potential worries that outside influences or other unwanted factors are driving your choices.

Another critical element is to build and nurture robust communication channels. Fear of the unknown can sometimes be overwhelming but sharing important project data—even if the information isn’t good news—will help everyone get past their concerns and be more confident in your team’s actions. Your remote communication strategy needs to support good information sharing within your team as well as across your stakeholder base.

Though your group may have designated one or two primary points of contact for inbound questions and requests, your efforts to eliminate fear-based behavior will be helped along if you provide direct lines of communication to your most senior supporters. High-level stakeholders have been known to worry about getting the runaround if your assigned gatekeeper doesn’t respond quickly enough, so give executives and sponsors a way to send messages straight to the project team’s senior leaders.

As part of your transparency and communication strategies, consider making project data available on demand to your team and primary stakeholders. When they’re comfortable that they can review milestones, schedules, variances, risk areas, and other key points at their convenience, they’re less likely to be afraid of what they don’t know. They’ll have everything in front of them to see the project is on track and on time for a successful completion, and that current budget figures remain aligned with the initial forecasts they approved.

 

PMAlliance offers project management consulting, training and portfolio management services.

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