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Politics in projects

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Politics in projects

  1. 1. The P-Word – the role of politics in project management APM EVENT 17 SEPTEMBER 2013 KEVIN PARRY, DIRECTOR, COGENIC HONG KONG COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013
  2. 2. What do we mean by politics? COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013 Politics is the exercise of power, by an individual or group It can be overt or covert It can be a positive or negative influence in projects
  3. 3. Culture THE WAY THAT AN ORGANISATION WORKS THE THINGS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013
  4. 4. More about culture CULTURAL NORMS We value harmony You have to be seen to be part of the team It doesn’t pay to ask too many questions The boss likes to see you working hard all the time We always eat together It’s OK to be sending email or text messages in meetings but not to be late MODEL OF CULTURE: EDGAR SCHEIN 1990 COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013
  5. 5. Corporate culture and politics Politics is about the way that power is exercised and by whom So culture determines what is acceptable behaviour to those in power It reinforces ideas, feelings and beliefs It has a powerful effect on performance and adaptability to change It affects motivation, communications and reward systems So what does this mean for project and programme managers? COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013
  6. 6. Negative politics and the effect on projects UK Health Service exampleUK Health Service exampleUK Health Service exampleUK Health Service example NpfitNpfitNpfitNpfit Objective widely supported, but change method was top-down and centralised Organisation power structure is decentralised through medical profession Insufficient research into existing investment and projects in Strategic Health Authorities Resistance, technical problems LessonsLessonsLessonsLessons Motives No buy-in by powerful stakeholders More haste, less speed Poor contracting process Multi-sourcing strategy Accountability - hard to stop when careers depend on delivery COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013 ResultResultResultResult HK$14BHK$14BHK$14BHK$14B write offwrite offwrite offwrite off
  7. 7. Positive politics Portfolio Change Programme in Global TelcoPortfolio Change Programme in Global TelcoPortfolio Change Programme in Global TelcoPortfolio Change Programme in Global Telco CEO-led change Initially cost-driven but became a search for opportunity Change seen as critical to survival Directors saw this as career opportunity Talent became easier to attract Problem was to find quick wins to keep political alliance support LessonsLessonsLessonsLessons The CEO leadership gave the programme credibility and urgency Instilling a sense of pride in what we were doing increased support Linking the delivery of new products to the ambitions of senior managers Keeping the momentum Show that support pays in the short term – people need confirmation of value to them COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013 ResultResultResultResult was multiple new revenue streamswas multiple new revenue streamswas multiple new revenue streamswas multiple new revenue streams
  8. 8. The importance of the Sponsor Guide to managing the political landscape Encourages openness and dialogue Provides support to the project manager and opens doors Uses political influence to build and maintain momentum for the project Takes ownership for the benefits but stays objective COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013
  9. 9. Why politics is becoming more important to the project manager International working • Multi-national teams • International importance of major projects We are more inter-connected then ever • Mobility • Social Media • IT Dependency Complexity • Scale of investment • Complexity of objectives The legacy of the 2008 financial crisis • Risk aversion • Power divide Resource scarcity • Labour • Land Changing influences • Political alliances • Competition in Asia COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013
  10. 10. What the profession can do SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR USING POLITICAL POWER TO YOUR ADVANTAGE Communicate often and follow up when you do Listen carefully, but don’t gossip Give and ask for favours sparingly COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013 Be honest about your personal agenda – emphasize what you share and be authentic in your dealings with others Take time to understand the perspective of influential stakeholders Work with other cultures and organisations if you can Be aware of your own political approach – learn how to influence and persuade more effectively Use the political power of your sponsor but don’t abuse his power or yours
  11. 11. And finally… COPYRIGHT COGENIC HONG KONG LIMITED 2013 “Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.” Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

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