Finding a neutral party in a project can be extraordinarily difficult. Every project stakeholder has their own list of wants, needs, and worries. The team is focused on getting everything done on time, end users want to know they haven’t been forgotten, department managers are concerned about meeting productivity goals and avoiding work disruptions, and the leadership group is keen to leverage the project’s end results to move their own strategic plans forward. Complicating matters is that these many voices don’t just represent their own competing priorities—any time stakeholders feel they have something to lose or gain, they may not put the project’s (and the organization’s) best interests first.
Complex, high-risk and important projects need a neutral voice to avoid these problems. By adding an impartial layer to the effort, the team and the organization it supports will both see tangible benefits.
More objective interpretation of risks and opportunities
It’s natural for people to understate liabilities or overstate opportunities if they see a benefit in one position or the other. Unfortunately, a skewed representation of a project’s risks and rewards could lead to failure. By bringing a neutral perspective into the conversation, a more evenhanded assessment can be conducted. This benefits team members, who won’t be setting themselves up for missed goals, and it also gives the organization’s executives peace of mind knowing the project plan has been developed using accurate and objective data.
More efficient (and equitable) task scheduling
Most PMs could point to several activities in every project that no one wants to do. There may be tasks that are tedious, time consuming, difficult, or uncomfortable. But they all still need to be done, and done well. Working these activities into the schedule and ensuring they receive the attention they need can be challenging. A neutral third party is able to assign tasks based on straightforward skill requirements and resource availability, thereby sidestepping drawn-out negotiations and arm twisting. They can also avoid the resulting delays when everyone “forgets” who was supposed to finish something.
More robust communication across all levels of the project team
Maintaining strong communication flows is one of the most difficult aspects of project management, but it’s also one of the most crucial. Organizations encounter communication bottlenecks and breakdowns for all sorts of reasons, from the challenges inherent in a dispersed team to a lack of existing communication channels between cross-functional groups that don’t often interact. If internal politics or concerns about confidentiality are also on the table, then cultivating robust communications is even more troublesome. A third-party that is outside those pressures can be instrumental in breaking down silos and facilitating discussions that would otherwise be awkward or full of friction.
Better information sharing between the team and executives
Sharing information—questions, concerns, progress updates, support requests—between the executive staff and the project’s stakeholders is a vital activity. Leaders rely on current information to drive their business decisions and they need to be aware of any issues that could impact either the project’s timeline or its end results. Team members need direction and approvals at many stages throughout the project lifecycle. But passing along bad news is tricky, and could lead people to stall as they seek alternative solutions, or to gloss over negative reports in hopes they won’t be caught out trying to explain why things have gone wrong. With a neutral party facilitating communications, this fear and embarrassment no longer impedes data sharing. Executives receive the information they need in a timely manner, and project team members get the direction they require to continue moving forward when the unexpected happens.