The environment created by a specific corporate culture can have a significant impact on project management outcomes. Fully understanding how to work effectively within the context of a particular organizational milieu comes with time. However, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself to really take control of a project in an unfamiliar setting.
Get Ready to Take the Reins
If you have recently begun managing projects for a new employer (or if your company is partnering with other businesses to carry out a project), it’s time to learn the ground rules for how each organization works. One of the most important questions you need to have answered is “Does my level of authority match my level of responsibility?”
Too often, project managers must attempt to accomplish objectives in an environment where their role is not viewed as having significant value. In these situations, your authority may be undermined and you may find yourself without the resources to accomplish the goals of the project at hand. Address the issue of who controls the project management process early on instead of waiting until this problem has escalated to the point where your efforts are doomed for failure.
Don’t Be a Doormat
In Western business cultures, straight talk that cuts to the chase is often viewed favorably as a sign of leadership. Put together a list of the types of decisions you must have the ability to make and the resources you need in order to do your job. Present these along with an explanation of the positive outcome your stakeholders can expect if you are given the appropriate amount of clout to do your job properly. Give examples of the types of issues that have occurred in the past when you were placed in a position of managing a project without actually being permitted to manage effectively. Do this calmly and with a little humor so it doesn’t come across as whining.
Don’t Be a Dictator
Even with a high degree of influence, you won’t simply be able to snap your fingers and get things done. There will always be a certain amount of negotiation and “horse trading” involved in getting your project requirements met. Obtaining buy in from your peers is an art form and a science. Make it clear that you are expecting a highly beneficial outcome for your project. People like to be associated with success. Offer to take on full accountability for project management in exchange for cooperation (or at least non-interference). This way, you are letting stakeholders know that the buck stops with you – but that you are willing to share the limelight if and when things go right.