Project management teams are always on the lookout for ways to achieve more consistent results, and one proven strategy they often employ is the elimination of waste. Some organizations, though, seem to love waste. Processes that have been around for years may no longer be economical, but they’re so entrenched it’s difficult to get approval to change them. Potential impacts on other areas of the organization also cause those at the executive level to balk at making revisions. Will this pose problems in another department? Will downstream processes be affected?
When proposing waste elimination efforts, project management professionals occasionally run up against an executive who prefers the status quo. These are the most difficult stakeholders to sway—they wield significant influence but they’re often removed from the daily challenges of project management.
If your Project Team is facing a leadership team that’s resistant to change, try the strategies below to help gain buy in.
Make it about the money. Tying wasteful practices to cold, hard cash is often the best way to get executives’ attention. Because they’re tasked with seeing the big picture and monitoring revenue flow across the entire organization, it’s likely they’ll sit up and take notice when confronted with facts on how waste affects the bottom line.
The key is to present the leadership group with understandable data that’s highly specific. Link costs directly to the process or activity you believe should be eliminated, so there’s no ambiguity about expected savings. If downstream activities will also be improved as a result, make a note of it and call out specific budget impacts where possible. Make the data available with as much granularity as you can.
Avoid lumping together any line items that have the potential to remain static or where long-term cost savings aren’t well known. Contingencies are a good example, as increased efficiencies may mean these monies don’t need to be spent but your Project Team is unlikely to eliminate them completely from future budget projections.
Find the closet “waste hater.” Rarely does a leadership team—even a small one—agree on everything. There’s always a chance someone within their ranks would secretly love to axe a wasteful process or who yearns for the opportunity to finally get rid of an entrenched, inefficient practice. If other methods fail to convince the group your waste-cutting ideas have merit, it’s time to find the rogue member and bring them over to your way of thinking.
Look at which member(s) of the team have asked the most questions about eliminating waste. These will be your best bet for gaining support, as their digging into the nuts and bolts of existing inefficiencies indicate a willingness to consider making changes. (Those who are truly opposed to change have already made up their minds and are usually less inclined to seek out additional details.)
Stay on target. You may not be able to persuade the executives to approve protocol changes right away, so be prepared to make your business case several times. Relay a consistent message to the executive team, highlighting cost savings, time advantages, better Project Team performance, and all the other benefits waste trimming would entail. Identify the specific line items that could be removed or reduced through improved efficiency during each budget cycle. Regularly include points on your team’s desire to eliminate specific wasteful practices during meetings and presentations. If proposed changes would impact another group, work to get their cooperation (it’s then a hurdle the leadership team won’t need to tackle on their own). A steady and persistent approach will give you the best odds of winning over even a particularly tough executive crowd.
Project Management Training Tips from PMAlliance