What are the challenges?
• Understanding the strategic direction of your organisation and how your project will benefit it
• Finding a project sponsor at an appropriate level in your organisation
• Keeping your project sponsor informed and on board.
As with any project that involves making changes to a process in relation to a best practice standard, one of the greatest risks could be seen as a lack of senior management buy-in. Put in simple terms: even if you have the greatest will and perseverance in the world and the determination to see your Asset Management project through to the end, it may still all come to nothing. On the first occasion that someone challenges one of your decisions and escalates the matter to your superior – who then does not back you and overrules your decision – you may as well give up there and then.
If, however, you take the time to do the groundwork with the senior management team, the chances are that the query will go your way and in future it is more likely that your authority will be observed and followed.
So what is the groundwork and what do you need to do to get you to the strongest position possible?
Firstly, you must understand the structure of the upper echelons of your organisation – who reports to whom? In your line management, ultimately where does the buck stop? Now it may be at a senior management level, it could even be at a board level and, in some cases, it may even need to be at the CEO; each organisation will be different.
You are looking to identify a management resource that will act as your project’s sponsor – someone that you can get alongside to understand the strategic direction of the company in a clearer way, and someone that will help push your project advantages and benefits at the most advantageous level in your organisation.
Having identified your potential sponsor, try to get alongside this resource to start to understand what makes them tick, what their priorities are and what objectives they may be working to. Plan to continue meeting with your manager – either formally or informally – so that you understand fully and your manager can see that you do, too.
Whenever you get together, ask open and intelligent questions. Certainly, on the first few occasions that you meet it would be good to listen more than you speak – that way, you can start to understand what your manager’s goals, aims, concerns and desires are.
Once you feel you have enough insight, think through your project. List how your project will help underpin or advance your manager’s goals and prepare to articulate this at your next meeting. In this meeting, it is vital you express the benefits your manager will see from the successful completion of your project. Following this, it is also important you ask for your manager to take up the position of project sponsor – someone you can keep updated and informed about how you are doing and someone that can take your project to the highest level, should you need authorisation for any project-related activity.
Then wait for the response. If it is positive, then accept your manager’s support and go and get on with your project. If, for any reason, the answer is negative, listen to the concerns and plan to come back again to address them in full.
Finally, with your project sponsor on board, keep them informed with regular updates on your project’s progress. In your communications, make your progress updates clear and concise, ensure your project objectives echo or mirror your manager’s objectives and goals and, if asked any questions, make sure that you answer quickly and clearly, so that your project sponsor’s confidence in you remains intact.
If there are any issues with project deliverables, escalate quickly and clearly – especially if you believe that any customer in the business is likely to escalate or complain – then make sure that you get to your project sponsor first, so that they are fully informed and aware.
• Identify your strongest sponsor in the business and plan to get them on board.
• Try to align your project goals with your project sponsor’s goals and corporate strategic goals.