Sometimes an organization’s senior staff hinders, rather than helps, an important project. They may take their time approving the final budget for an urgent initiative or they might pressure the PM to change or expand the planned deliverables mid-stream. These kinds of issues aren’t just disruptive—they have the potential to drain your available funding, delay activities, and waste personnel time on low-value objectives.
If you spot signs your executive team is derailing your project, consider the following strategies to bring things under control and get your progress back on track.
Start by outlining the executives’ actions that are interfering with your ability to move the project toward a successful completion. Be candid but neutral when discussing the issues that are blocking progress, whether you’re seeing a lack of timely support or are having difficulty gaining access to promised resources. Offer enough detail about what’s going on so the leadership team can clearly identify where their behavior is having negative impacts on your project.
Next, review the project’s scope. If there are misunderstandings or confusion hanging over the effort, you want to reconcile those as quickly as possible. Does the leadership team understand the project’s parameters? Are they aware of planned timeframes for key milestones as well as the initiative’s target completion date? Are they committed to their role as a sponsor? Inquire about any concerns related to the scope and confirm everyone is one the same page. For executives who aren’t normally involved in project development activities, be sure they know the effort’s components—scope, timeline, budget—have been set and this isn’t an opportunity to revisit any of that unless the C-suite is willing to suspend work while the details are reassessed.
Remind the executive group of the project’s critical path. If you know several initiatives are active, this is the right time to ensure you’re all talking about the same project. They may have mixed up your project with another, so help them get a better handle on the critical path driving your effort and what its completion will mean to the company. Give everyone insight into the costs—financial and otherwise—of project failure. This will reinforce how important it is to restore your initiative to a healthy state. Consider scheduling regular follow-ups to ensure the executives continue to support the project and remain engaged with the value it will deliver.
It may be prudent to confirm the project’s priority against everything else that’s also vying for resources, since it’s possible the executives are using new information that was never relayed to you. Have market conditions shifted, pushing other projects ahead of yours? Are short-term concerns—delays in other initiatives or unexpected workforce pressures—causing the executives to question the scope or timeframe of your existing project? If new factors are now in play, ask the leadership what it means for your project. You can then either reset your team’s expectations for support in the immediate future or renew the senior staff’s commitment to ensuring your project gets back on the path to success.
It’s possible some of your challenges stem from inefficient internal processes. If that’s the case, consider alternative methods of tackling what needs to be done. Have slow executive approvals on purchase orders or work agreements caused delays? Inquire about increasing your signature authority to move requests through more quickly. Is the leadership team too busy to direct HR on fulfilling the project’s workforce needs? See if they can formally delegate hiring approvals to you for this initiative so you can bring in the team members you need to get back on track.