Human and political forces loom large in the success of projects

Human and political forces loom large in the success of projects. Please discuss these impacts on the project planning stage of a project.

Successful project management is directly linked to the ability of Project Managers and other key players to understand the importance of organisation politics and how to make them work for project success. While most of us view politics with distaste there is no denying that effective managers are often those who are willing and able to employ appropriate politics tactics to further their project goals.1

Politics and human forces are to the fore of all projects whether it is at the initial project selection or throughout the life cycle of the project. The persuasiveness of people and the politics of an organisation cannot be underestimated or ignored when planning and implementing a project. The role of the Project Manager is to achieve the goals and objectives of the project within predefined parameters and the constraints of time, cost and performance. To achieve success the Project Manager will need a varied skills set and cannot rely alone on technical or management skills. The ability to communicate, influence, persuade, motivate and relate to team members at all levels of the project is a skill that most Project Managers struggle to meet. When selecting a Project Manager an organisation may not give enough weighting to the soft skills which are required to deal with the human and political forces that prevail when managing a project.

A Project Manager will more than likely have very little influence over team members when it comes to rewarding performance or promotions. Team members may be asked to give more to achieve the project without any rewards while continuing to do their normal day to day work. The competing demands of team members’ daily work and the effort required on the project may result in conflict and little desire to contribute to the success of the project. When you bring individuals together, even if they are part of the one organisation, it does not mean that you will have a team that will work well together. There may already be tensions between different function e.g. Human Resources, Marketing, Production, Finance etc. and to bring staff members together from disparate functions will not result in instantaneous team harmony. Project success will come down to good team work. A further complication to good team work and the success of a project is interpersonal conflict either between individual team members or the project member and team member(s). A Project Manager cannot allow conflict to fester within a project and needs to find ways of getting team members to see past their individual home departments and bring their skills to bear on the project and become true team members focussing on the goals and objectives of the project. It is important for a Project Manager to accept that a team member may feel department loyalty over commitment to the project. By understanding and accepting that this loyalty exists the Project Manager can seek to find a solution that will allow for a certain amount of loyalty to their home department and allow for the best interests of the project to be developed.

The project planning phase of any project is the most crucial and the success of any projects will lie with the effort that went into the project planning stage. The success of a project is largely determined by whether it has been achieved within the agreed scope, time, costs and quality. People are at the centre of project management and therefore must be managed to ensure the success of the project.

Human psychology can be considered an integral part of project management. Technical knowledge can be put at 30 to 40% of day to day project management activities with other people centric activities accounting for 60 to 70%. It is the people centric activities that require the most careful management within a project. All projects involve change and the way team members can view the change can be positive, negative or neutral. A small project such as redesigning an office can create tensions as locations of desks or equipment can been seen as undermining a person position within the office and the person who gains the seat by the window being perceived as the most powerful and perhaps the person who ends up sitting by the photocopier the least powerful. Politics can come into play into trying to get the most successful outcome for the team member but the Project Manager must ensure that it is for the best of the project regardless of the size of the project. A Successful Project Manager will understand that the role requires more than being technically or managerially competent but that real success comes from the ability to influence, build alliances and negotiate trade offs.

References
1 Pinto, Jeffrey K, Understanding the Role of Politics in Success Project Management. International Journal of Project Management`