Project Management Institute

Bottoms up

VOICES | Peer to Peer

When the executive suite approves a project that will create major change, here's how to handle the stakeholders who matter most.

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I could see why people might think that buy-in from the executive level is more important, because it's difficult to build buy-in from below without buy-in from above. But in truth, they're both equally important to a project's success.

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I agree. Here's a good example: When I was the project manager on the construction of a healthcare facility, we implemented mock-up rooms so the medical staff could experience how the new facility would look and feel in critical rooms, such as maternity or intensive care, and the staff provided feedback to the architects.

I'll never forget when an older nurse, who didn't seem interested in implementing change, came up to me with this huge smile in the middle of the project.

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She said, “The architects have come back time and time again, demonstrating with the new drawings that they are actually listening to our suggestions.” Getting buy-in from internal end users ensures we're meeting their clinical needs and requirements—and the project might not have been as successful without that buy-in.

What's at risk when project managers don't rely on change management techniques?

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They end up with an end product that is not sustainable. People generally won't accept the end product, and a new project will need to be planned much sooner than it should be.

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Not using change management techniques is a big career risk to the project manager, too. That person could be seen as someone who gets things done, which is certainly a good thing, but one who doesn't inspire others or work to align stakeholders with the organization and its projects.

Why would project managers not use change management techniques, then?

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They might think they are using the techniques. Sometimes interpersonal skills are viewed as formal change management techniques, but this is wrong.

Interpersonal skills are soft skills and involve tasks like inviting someone to lunch to reach an informal agreement. That's just persuasion when compared to change management techniques, which are based on surveys, analysis and tools. PM

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Gustavo Pastrana, PMP, is the deputy director of the project management office at insurance organization AXA Seguros México, Mexico City, Mexico.

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Tom Sparrow, PMP, is the chief project officer at the North Island Hospitals Project, Vancouver Island Health Authority, Comox, British Columbia, Canada.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM NETWORK JULY 2013 WWW.PMI.ORG

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