Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Finding and nurturing "champions", part of Managing International Projects.
- Human beings have varying levels of comfort with change. Some people like change because it represents an opportunity but others don't like change because it forces them into a situation they've not experienced before. When it comes to projects, change is inevitable. So, the challenge for any project manager is to get buy-in for that change from stakeholders. On an international project, this is much more difficult. When it comes to change via project, there are three kinds of people.
People who see that the project has the potential to improve things but are apprehensive. People who see the project as a potentially bad experience and are concerned about it and may even resist it. In some of the worst cases, they may also think the project outcomes will reduce their personal power or position in the organization. When people are reluctant to get involved in projects because of their discomfort with change, recruiting and training champions can help. Champions are people who can see the value of the change you're driving and are willing to help in their local area to make that change happen.
They're also willing to support others in that effort. So how do we find and nurture champions? First, look for those who accept the change as having value. Even if they're apprehensive about the change, don't dismiss them as being your initial champions. If you can convince them your approach to change is valid, they may prove to embrace the change with the most enthusiasm. In turn, they'll be the best evangelists for your project. They may even flag the potential problems that the enthusiastic will just gloss over in their enthusiasm.
Second, look at the what's in it for me angle. When somebody is presented with a personal opportunity, that can help peak their interest. So look for those opportunities which will add to the effectiveness and outcomes of the project and the individuals you're considering as project champions. Third, don't write anyone off permanently as a potential champion. Champions may be people who start out against the change, but for some reason alter their thinking and become supporters of the project.
These people can help influence others to make the same change in their thinking. Embracing skeptics can help you to avoid the very problems that concern them most. A converted skeptic often becomes your most dedicated supporter. Ideally, for an international project to succeed, you need one champion for every 20 people affected. This is a lofty goal and requires a lot of work, but the closer you get, the more your lack of buy-in risk decreases.
Once you identify your champions, make sure they have ample opportunities to participate in project meetings and decision-making. This should occur at all levels of the organization. The operational, the tactical, and the strategic. Your operational-level champion should be able to advise you and help the organization's workers understand what will happen with their day-to-day processes once the project is implemented. Your tactical-level champions will need to understand how key process indicators will change and how they will be recorded.
They will also need to advise you on how activities are prioritized, so your project initiatives do not fall to the bottom of the to-do list for managers. Lastly, senior leaders need to be involved as the drivers of strategic change, probably even as part of your steering committee, so that decisions and new policies put in place by your project can be reinforced and have sufficient ownership after your project is concluded. Much like the phrase it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team of champions to nurture and drive a project to success.
Identifying and supporting your project champions can help ensure your project baby will be successful.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Communicating across borders
- Bridging time zones and language gaps
- Finding and nurturing management "champions"
- Evaluating your communication style
- Keeping international projects on track