Determining the level of resistance and support for a project before you begin is critical. Most projects fail for a lack of internal support from users and executives suggests Leon M. Hielkema’s book HR Strategic Project Management SPOMP: Implementing Organisational Change Successfully. If someone opposes a project and you take the time to hear their concerns it may help prevent problems before they occur.
Here, I’ll use the task of ordering office plants to illustrate that even the simplest projects can evoke resistance and confusion.
How do you (manager) feel about this project? Why?
Your manager’s interest in the project has a direct impact on the support you will receive. In this case Sarah, your manager, says “To be honest I don’t care one way or another. I just want it off my list. Bill the CEO gave the task to us to do, so we must do it.” Based on this conversation you understand her priority is getting it off her plate with minimal involvement on her part.
Does anyone think this project is a bad idea? Why?
While it is easy to blame resistance on “politics,” you’ll typically find a valid concern if you dig a little deeper. Bob in accounts receivable thinks office plants are a horrible idea. You take a few minutes to ask him why and he says “Who is going to water them? My staff can’t take any more responsibilities”. He brings up a good point, plant upkeep was not a part of your assignment. However, now you are aware and can come up with recommendations or a solution in advance.
Who is the project champion? Why?
It is easy to mistakenly believe there is more passion behind a request than really exists. By talking with the champion, the Director of Business Development, Dave “I want the office to look nice for clients. I mentioned to Bill that plants would be a nice touch.” His main concern is how clients feel in the office. He doesn’t care about the logistics or particulars.
If you had not asked these questions you might have assumed since the CEO assigned the project it was of critical importance. You might then assume that Sarah wants minute-by-minute updates on the status of the plants. You would not have learned about the watering concern and not come up with a recommendation for plant upkeep. After all, you were just asked to get plants. Armed with your answers to these three questions you can move forward with your project with a better understanding of how it will impact others.
In larger projects you would want to check back in with these folks on a regular basis. In this case make a brief outline of your recommendations which would include budget, time and details on the plants. In addition you can incorporate (now that you know Bob’s concerns) your suggestions for upkeep of the plants. Review with Sarah and then informally with Bob and Dave.
Now it’s your turn. What questions do you ask before you began a project?
Photo attribution: ambiusindoorplants.com.au