Working in IT Project Management, given the profession’s prominent role in the facilitation of business strategy and driving business change, you’d think we’d be above it! Project managers and leaders are among the most intelligent individuals you could hope to work with and yet many IT Projects are still scuppered by workplace politics.
In recent times I’ve seen something of a resurgence of this scourge of project success … so …
Here, I share my…
7 Silver Bullets to Stop Office Politics Killing Your IT Projects
1 – PMaaS Is THE Office Politics Silver Bullet
Projects hampered by workplace politics often benefit from sourcing some or all of their Project Management capability from the Project Management as a Service market.
Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) offers you a complete range of Project Management services, including full Programme Management Office (PMO) and not just assessments, governance and tools – also people to improve your delivery capability and performance.
AND The best thing … those people brought in via PMaaS have no company baggage with them. They just don’t care about office politics. They want to get in, get the job done and move on.
2 – Be The Change You Wish to See
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I find inspiration in Mahatma Gandhi’s words when tackling office politics in IT Projects.
As a Project Leader, you have to lead by example and frankly if you’re the type of manager who likes a moan when a stakeholder throws a spanner in the works that will be the way your team will talk about you. If, however, you take the twists and turns of project management on the chin and face each challenge with a smile and a can-do attitude then you’ll find that’s just as infectious!
3 – Don’t Be Part of the Problem, Be Part of the Solution
I remember many, many years ago sitting down with a Project Manager who had a reputation for being a bit of a negative character. He was the guy who would flag up problems and explain why the great new idea that the board had come up with couldn’t be done. He was actually great at spotting potential pitfalls, almost had a sixth sense for it but never came up with workarounds or solutions.
He was frustrated by his lack of career advancement and when I pointed out that he was seen as a ‘mood Hoover’ he was mortified. He went to work on this aspect of his performance. He still tells the board that they’re barking up the wrong tree and is always the first to spot when a project is about to hit a snag but now he follows up such observations with a well thought through solution. He’s doing rather well for himself.
4 – “Don’t Show Favouritism to The Office Mirror”
In any office, there will be people who always agree with you. It could be because you’re always right but sometimes it’s because you could advance a particular individual’s career – beware the “career yes-man”. I call them the office mirror because whatever you say they parrot or blindly follow.
It’s important to have the presence of mind to know the difference. It can be hard. We all can be guilty of gravitating to people who share our outlook. In a Project environment, it can be tempting to favour individuals who offer least resistance but that team member who pipes up with a problem might be about to save your project from a potential disaster.
Encourage your team to constructively disagree and suggest alternative solutions and give equal prominence to those with doubts and those with unwavering faith.
5 – “Credit Where Credit’s Due”
I consulted on a toxic project once where it seemed a creative bunch of seasoned project professionals had run dry of ideas! They hadn’t but they had grown sick of not getting the credit they deserved for their input.
The Project Leader wasn’t claiming their ideas as her own but she also wasn’t making it clear that they weren’t and so got all the glory when an initiative paid off. Some Project Leaders are even worse and do pass off the ideas of their team as their own.
Either way, it’s counterproductive whereas flagging up team members for praise for good work encourages more good work and a more cooperative working environment.
6 – Clear Lines of Accountability
One of my Project Manager friends has a “buck stops with me” approach another allocates very clearly defined tasks and hands responsibility and accountability to individual team members with them. Both suffer ZERO problems with finger pointing and incorrect apportioning of blame when things don’t go to plan.
The blame game can be a major source of office discontent and wounds caused when someone is singled out can take a long time to heal. When everyone knows where the buck stops workplace politics have less space to grow.
7 – Unpack Conflicts
Often the secret of staying clear of office politics is to ignore the “he said, she said” heat and drill down to the Project related issue that is at the heart of the conflict. When you depersonalise conflicts they tend to become more black and white and easy to resolve for the good of the project.
Conflicts fester, good leaders, spot them and sort them before they flare up.
If your IT Projects are falling foul of office politics I hope that these suggestions help. If you have any top tips or experience of eradicating workplace politics, I’d love to hear from you.