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Maintaining Your Political Clout in an Uncertain Business Initiative

While the internet is full of lists of “deadly sins” for business initiatives and implementing new projects, I have developed my own set of “The 5 Deadly Sins of Project Management” to be mindful of that if not properly managed could lead to revenue loss, a credibility hit to you or your political clout and in some instances even losing your job entirely. My list makes the assumption that you and your team have some idea about moving forward and experience to draw on, so we’ll skip over padding the list with the basics of understanding execution and delivery.

If every business initiative or

The business initiative project could be a newly defined process, an implementation of an IT system, gap analysis or any other initiative that has a definitive start and finish with expected outcomes for the effort. It may or may not be IT related, but almost always there will be people, money, schedules and obstacles to overcome.

SCOPE CREEP You agree on the scope of the initiative at the beginning, then things change as it progresses. Change almost always happens, and it almost always should. But how you manage scope creep and manage the change process and manage the impacts to time, cost and resource availability is what will make your initiative a success or a failure.

POOR RISK MANAGEMENT Risk is everywhere. You have risk that may include resource availability, funds available, environmental factors or even the most basic "We know we want something, we're just not sure what until you start showing us something else." Managing risk is more than just making a risk register. Risk needs to be ranked by likelihood and impact, then communicated to the stakeholders to design mitigation plans if the risk evolves into an issue.

INACCURATE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Initiatives need funding, and project funds need to be managed effectively. Whether it is Governance, Business Case development, Forecasting or Actuals vs. Budgets need to be managed accurately and plan vs actuals managed appropriately to keep the initiative on track.

OVERLOADED TASK MANAGEMENT All initiative have a definitive start and a definitive end by definition, so people are allocated according to the tasks and time needed. With managing tasks, there will likely be dependencies on other tasks or factors that may or may not be within a project team's control. Tasks need to be managed holistically, while looking at the big picture of dependencies, financial impacts due to risks or issues developing or time or resource constraints. Tasks need to be prioritized based on what is known at the beginning of the project. As things change in the business environment, priorities may change as well. How you manage changing priorities impacts the tasks and other variables that will make or break your project delivery being viewed as successful.

INEFFICIENT COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT Every initiative requires some level of communication. Managing communication means keeping stakeholders, decision makers, problem owners and the project team informed on the project status, risks, financials and expectations. Managing EXPECTATIONS is critical to a initiative’s success because without it, people don't know if they are getting what they want or expected to get. Open and transparent communication ensures stakeholders understand they may be asking for an Italian sports car, but their budget can only afford a skateboard. Don’t hesitate to change a project to yellow or red if there is an issue to be raised and needs attention. Be open to changing scope as long as it is clearly communicated how the timelines or cost or resource availability will be impacted.

My final thoughts on managing “The 5 Deadly Sins of Project Management” is to find simplicity in the complexity of the dynamics you are faced with. These concepts can be applied to large and small business initiatives, projects, or even managing things such as volunteer committees. The objective of the initiative will differ among various industries and businesses, but the end goal stays the same: Deliver to your stakeholders’ expectations. There are many different methods to accomplish this and some may involve your own company processes. Being a super star by not communicating problems and keeping them hidden could spell disaster for you, your initiative and your political clout.

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