Every project needs leadership in order to be successful and it’s often up to the Project Manager to provide this direction. Project Managers don’t work alone, however. They report up to Executive Sponsors who can prioritize resources and they oversee Project Teams that ultimately get the work done. But what happens when a member of one of these groups isn’t engaged? Quality of work and timeliness can suffer, ultimately leading to project failure. Through our work with public safety clients across the country, we have found that one key to a successful project is the spirit of shared ownership.
Whether planning a technology procurement, strategic study or other new project, it’s important that all team members not only understand their roles, but also the importance of the project from an organizational and individual perspective. It’s not just about what you’ll do, but why you’ve been chosen, why you’re critical to the project’s success and how this project will improve your organization. When team members feel as if they own the project (as opposed to the project owning them), their work product will improve as will the likelihood of project success. The success of a project becomes intertwined with the success of the individual. But how can a Project Manager achieve shared ownership?
First, change your mindset. Don’t think of your stakeholders in a hierarchical manner – think more holistically. You’re not working for the Executive Sponsor and the Project Team isn’t working for you – you’re all working together. Create an environment where each member is just as important as the next to achieve success.
Second, create opportunities for everyone to take ownership. When creating your initial project charter, make sure each team member has a say before it’s finalized. It’s a lot easier to follow the rules when you’ve helped create them. If you run into team members who are quiet or receding from discussions, look for creative ways to get them involved. In some cases this can mean asking them to lead future meetings or assisting the meeting lead with specific tasks (e.g., reviewing the Risk Register). Seek to transition your wallflowers into active participants.
Third, keep everyone engaged over the lifetime of the project. It’s difficult to maintain momentum during long-term projects. Individuals will inevitably lose steam and start to become disengaged as time passes. Find ways to keep your stakeholders motivated. If possible, reward them when work is meeting expectations. Keep your status meetings on-point, lead with a purpose and make sure that everyone continues to have a chance to be heard over the course of the project.
Lastly, return to the project purpose. Take every opportunity to remind your stakeholders why they’re important, why this project is important, and how their success and the project’s success are one in the same.
DELTAWRX is a management consulting firm that specializes in supporting public safety agencies with needs assessments, technology procurements, strategic plans, feasibility studies and other engagements. In addition, we assist clients with providing project management and implementation oversight services. To learn more about our services, or to discuss methods for building stakeholder engagement, please reach out to us here.