Tech Manager—Project Involvement
Let’s just all get in a room (or virtual room) and lock the door until we get a plan in place and have a final decision. I have heard that stated in many different ways, but the concept is... get all stakeholders and anyone that can provide input or needed approval involved in a process and get it done. But even when we gather them all together, someone might get left out. We have all forgotten to bring someone into a project and must apologize later. It hurts the project momentum, and it hurts the uninformed person’s feelings. Who needs to be involved in all of this and when do they need to be involved?
Even when you have the right mix of staff, many times a project gets derailed not by bad decisions but by communication breakdowns. And communication starts with an invite. Whether it is an update to a standard, a new project kickoff, a new software rollout or a retirement of old tools, someone could not be informed, or they are not part of the decision and they get offended. Mostly it is by accident. You just forget to let someone know. When it happens, I find that most of the time the actual decision or plan is not the issue, it is the failure to be invited. The person actually agrees but is upset that they were not included in the conversations. You must spend time defusing their frustration and not making progress on the project. They walk away with resentment and may drag their feet in the future. But you just forgot to include them. It was a mistake.
So, over the next few articles, we will spend some time covering topics about building a Project Team, inviting the right mix and then launch into some communication topics.
So how do you make sure all key players are involved in a project and get invited at the right time? Who needs to define requirements? Who can approve the budget? Who can define the timeline? Who needs to be informed of the changes? Who should work directly with vendors or clients? Who says the project is complete?
LAYERS OF INVOLVEMENT
There are several layers of project involvement during development, input, decisions, approvals, execution, and communication. Some or all of these layers involve people who are actively involved at some point in conversations. Some may be doing the work and others just observing. Let’s start by knowing who the participants are. You can’t succeed until you know who is on the field, who is on the bench and who is in the stands. You can’t tell the players without a program – lol. They are all stakeholders on some level. Those who may need to be involved include the following:
Executive Owner – This is the highest person up the ladder that supports and endorses the project. Go as high as you can up the ladder. It could be the Director, C Suite leader, and even CEO. Big projects require high level endorsement. Projects that impact more staff, offices and clients need upper-level backing. This person does not have to be a hands-on user, just have a big stake in the success or failure of the endeavor. When I published a completely new CAD/BIM Standard, I had the CEO sign the first page so that everyone knew that we were all going to move forward because the CEO supported the effort.
Champion – This is an end user that totally is excited to make the change and will support the effort with positive feedback, cheerleading, convincing folks and leading the charge. This person should have negotiation skills and not expect people to just do it because they say so. This is usually not someone up the ladder from you. It is most likely a lateral staffer who wants to see things happen. Think Project or Office Manager.
Approver – This person can approve the plan or purchase and controls the budget, staff, or client relationship. It might be you or someone else. It is someone that can approve the next steps or milestone in the project flow. It is the bottom-line person that can actually spend the money, assign staff tasks or manage the client impact. It might be several people. They approve time, money, or deadlines. They not only can, but they should also approve. You should not move forward until the Approvers actually approve. Approval means taking responsibility for outcomes. You need their buy in, and sometime even a signature (get it in writing).
Completer – Not sure what to call these folks. They actually do the work, but I did not want to call them Workers. They are hands on. They are expected to get things done. They will have assigned tasks and need to complete them as the project goes forward. The team is critical and should be filled with those that have some stake in the outcome and are motivated toward success, working together and not letting the team down.
Supporter – Those that can support the progress. They are like champions but are not expected to lead the charge. They are early adopters. They are expected to help get stragglers on board. They help adoption by joining in the flow when things start happening.
Consultant – These are the ones that you want to consult with, as the project progresses. They may never attend a meeting, but they can be advisors to your team. You would have conversations with them, or they could review documents that the team generates. They are a fresh set of eyes that help you see what is not obvious. They help you not ignore signposts or signals that things are derailing. They help you get back on track. They may even be outside your company. They are not expected to have their foot on the throttle or the brakes, but they will encourage progress and watch for blind spots. They should be good at asking question that challenge thinking and not be af raid to voice their concerns.
Informant – No, these are not secret spies or snitches who tell you about others that might be working against your efforts. These are the people that you keep informed. I guess they should be informees (is that a word?). They may be end users or support staff that need a heads up on what is coming down the line. They are not part of the effort but may want to know the progress being made. Define the milestones when you will let these folks know the progress. Maybe let them know when you will give them info so they can manage their expectations.
Now that you have your team gathered and defined you can start making progress. As we move forward, we will discuss meetings, reports, status updates and more that will keep the team on point and focused on the goal line.