Office Politics & the Success of Your Project

Mike Girdler

Manage office politics: stakeholder identification & communication planning Do you ever think about office politics and their impact on your project? Personally, I loathe even …

Manage office politics: stakeholder identification & communication planning

Do you ever think about office politics and their impact on your project? Personally, I loathe even the thought of office politics or getting caught up in them or the negative consequences they can have. But addressing politics head-on ensures successful projects.

But first, what is office politics? Think about the stakeholder with a hidden agenda – maybe s/he doesn’t want to see the project done successfully – or done at all. Think of gossip, posturing and the team member assigned to the project but who really wants to be on another higher profile project. At the end of the day, they all equate to obstacles that can derail a project.

Whether we formally acknowledge it or not, we need to be aware of office politics and be prepared to manage them throughout the course of our project or we could run into some serious trouble.

Managing politics for project success

The critical steps for managing office politics are right in front of us and part of project management fundamentals. We just need to pay extra attention to ensure we’re minimizing threats to our project.

Step 1Identify the stakeholders. The definition of a stakeholder is “someone who can affect or be affected by the project.” We need to ensure we’ve identified all of the stakeholders: direct and indirect, internal and external. We need to deeply understand their requirements, interests and influence on where they stand on the project and what success looks like to them.

To gain a true stakeholder understanding, dig deeper. Discover what makes them tick, who and what influences them and their personal and professional views on your project. By doing this, we can ensure we have the stakeholder engaged, supportive and accountable for our project’s success. Maybe they’re on the team or part of the change control review group. But regardless of how they’re engaged, or what role they play on the project, identifying and understanding our stakeholders gives us the information we need to reduce any possible threats from stakeholders and office politics.

Step 2Ensure communication planning is rock solid. This means that we know all our stakeholders and understand their communication requirements so we can send the right information via the right channel at the right time.

Communication serves the stakeholders, executive, decision makers, team and our sponsor with up-to-date progress reports on the project. Communication may take the form of face to face meetings, status reports, risk register and issue updates and milestones for the project.

Regardless of what form the communication takes, it connects everyone to a dynamic road map of the project – what’s going on, what’s coming next and who is (or isn’t) doing what. Constantly checking in ensures we’re on track and reduces the risk of office politics creeping in to affect our project.

Office politics exist, whether we like it or not and we as project managers have two choices: let them manage us or we manage them. I choose the latter and spend additional time on stakeholder and communications management to ensure projects come to a successful close – delivering on time, on budget and to stakeholder satisfaction.

Check out the Cornerstone Dynamics philosophy on project management and our offerings. Have you got a story on office politics that needs to be heard? Feel free to leave a comment below or shout out to us on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, you could always write your own blog post on the subject and share it with us… We’d love to read it!


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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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