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Relationship in project management

There are plenty of places where it is mentioned that project management includes stakeholder management and communication management. If these parts are not given enough attention, there is a 99% chance that the project will fail. However, what I very often notice is that these two topics are approached in a very technical way: there are a bunch of different methodologies on how to evaluate and rank different stakeholders (about this in another blog article:)) or what kind of information, to what size of audience, via what communication channel should be communicated. What I really miss is the emphasis on the fact that the project team needs to invest in relations with stakeholders.

One of the most important elements for project manager success is good relationship with stakeholders.

The expression investment in the relationship sounds very sophisticated. However, these are simply some extra steps to create a sincere relationship with the people whom you need to achieve a common result with. And to a very large extent, project managers forget about it.

I will give a very real example: in the workplace, just a few tables away, there is a project manager and one of the people who is an important part of the project team to make the project successful. Both of these people are in the same remote meeting and are dealing with all kinds of problems that the project is facing at that time. What happens during the call is that the same person who is sitting very close to the project manager expresses his opinion, that project manager does not do enough. Meanwhile, one of the observers, who sees the situation, is surprised how they behave and why they don't solve such things separately by simply running to each other's tables.

After analyzing the situation, it is very clear to me that, unfortunately, in this situation, the project manager did not put extra effort into the relationship, so that there was no confrontation. And possibly he himself behaved in a similar way. Relationships are a two-way street: if you do not treat someone correctly, then it will boomerang back.

It is important that project managers put a necessary effort to avoid potential disputes with stakeholders.

Returning to the situation itself, what could have been done to prevent internal dispute from occurring? In such cases, when I already feel that there is friction:

  • I try to talk to the person and discuss together how we can improve our cooperation. It is not easy because you have to get over your ego and we are all egoists in one way or another

  • next step: when you come to the office, don't forget to say hello - we often forget that, because everyone is on their phones and headphones - to hear someone say good morning to everyone - an ancient history these days

  • and finally, in a difficult situation you should go and ask for help in a very simple and human way: not with letters, not with assigned tasks and a directive tone, but just to go and say: please help, because the project is not going well

This doesn't mean you have to become best friends with everyone, but these small steps often help clear the clouds on the project team relationship front.

Final thoughts.

When it comes to project management, relationship management is one of the key elements for project success. Even if project was delivered on time, within the budget, does not mean, that stakeholders will see project manager as the one they will be willing to work next time. You do not need to become best friends, but you should look for angles and build your connection around it, that are important to your stakeholder the very least.


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