Resolving cultural hostility towards project management through peacekeeping

A root cause of PMO failures is an organization culture that is not in favor of project management.  Unlike other common contributing factors (e.g. a lack of executive sponsorship, perception of insufficient value delivered), this issue is much tougher to address as it cannot be resolved by having the “right” leadership team, or by enforcing policies.

A parallel could be drawn to the role of peacekeepers in a post-war country – merely enforcing policies and rules does not resolve insurgencies, nor do they endear the peacekeepers with the citizens.

How can the practices used by peacekeepers help you establish project management capabilities under hostile conditions?

1. Be a missionary, not a dictator – Avoid “hard selling” PM, and focus instead on creating a need for change within your target audience.  Avoid the temptation to “preach” or to pass judgment on the motivations behind behaviors and focus on establishing and communicating a vision of how things “could be”.

2. Lead by example – Before attempting to change practices across the department or organization, manage a single project using the practices you are trying to establish.  If you can demonstrate the value of applying these practices to the sponsor, stakeholders and team members on that project, they can then begin to spread the “good word” on your behalf.

3. Pick your battles – You cannot afford to engage in a do-or-die costly “war” over any one specific practice or policy.  Be like water – follow the path of least resistance, but with persistence you can wear down the toughest boulder!

4. Be consistent – Although there is a general need for flexibility (as per point #3), if you don’t adhere to a basic set of principles (however minimal those are), you will never gain respect from those you are trying to “convert”.

5. Make the lives of the “locals” better – While it is important to sell the value of PM to senior management, culture change is more successful when it is both top down and bottom up.  Providing support and coaching to project teams in subtle ways can help to foster a grass roots movement.  Focusing efforts on key influencers (super-connectors) can help you get to the tipping point faster.

While resolving PM culture clashes can make you feel like you are waging a protracted battle, adapting a peacekeeping approach to winning “hearts and minds”  may be the best path to lasting change.


Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management | Tags: | Leave a comment

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