Subtle Influence

Project Managers Can Gently Nudge Stakeholders Toward a Desired Outcome

 

By Eduard Hernàndez, PMP

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The smallest actions can alter people's behaviors in a predictable way without limiting their ability to make decisions. Want to spend less money on groceries? Pick a basket over a shopping cart. Trying to control how much you eat? Use a smaller plate. Project managers can take a similar approach to positively influence customers, sponsors and project team members. When you lack formal authority over stakeholders, sometimes a simple nudge can help you steer them away from trouble.

CORRECT CHANGE

Stakeholders often agree to change requests without having enough information about their consequences. One way to combat this is by prominently highlighting how long the change will take to implement and how much it will cost. Another way is to highlight your recommendation on the change request as “the most chosen” or “best option” to guide someone toward choosing it.

PUSH PROGRESS

Updating the project completion percentage in your project management tool is a good practice, but a simple tweak can provide a gentle push toward project completion. Print out a large, creative image that represents the project, display it in the project room and illustrate the completion percentage during team meetings. Creating a more dramatic way for stakeholders to see the progress rate slow or stop can inspire team members to redouble their efforts with more urgency.

AGILE ACTIONS

Agile approaches are, in effect, a continuous nudging mechanism. The questions usually asked during the daily standup (What did I do yesterday? What am I going to do today?) force a development team to focus on continuous progress. In addition, moving items to the sprint serves as a natural impetus for team members to prioritize those tasks.

Stakeholders are complex, and nudging will not always motivate them to make better choices. But with practice and deliberate application, your ability to apply subtle influence becomes sharper and more effective, helping you lead all stakeholders toward actions and decisions that drive better outcomes. PM

img Eduard Hernàndez, PMP, is a senior project manager at Sanquin Plasma Products B.V., Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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