How To Manage Political Issues As Project Manager

Sunday, October 6, 2019, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

Sometimes a project gets to be too big because of a variety of influences from different directions. About 10 years ago, I was working for an investment company in the city.

The company was working on a project that had taken 4 years and more than $40 million. It was so bad Wall Street Journal ran an article which pointed many weaknesses, one of which was 12 project managers had worked on it in 4 years. The project was still not complete.

Another company – a competitor – outsourced a similar project and using off-the-shelf software, they were able to finish the project in one year at a cost of $1.5 million.

With help from the company’s C-Level executives, you can overcome many political issues that arise in the course of managing your project. As a matter of fact, if you are a street talker and not just purely academic textbook kind of guy, then you should be able to accept the positive comments and reject the negative ones.

Turn politics to your own advantage…

Politics, in the simplest terms, is the art of interacting with others, explaining and convincing them to get things done in an efficient way.

Project Politics

The word politics conjures up bad feelings about it.

We have heard about Congress playing politics with one another on issues that could be beneficial to the American public. But the bill or whatever issue dies down.

However, politics can be good, bad or just pure harmless.

Your job – should you decide to accept it – is to use politics for the sole purpose of finishing the project in due time and within the budget.

In the process, you must cling strongly to the original specifications that concerned folks had signed on.

Examples of Good politics…

The point of the examples is to show that influencing people and getting things done in a company is a good thing:

  • You have a genuine desire and are able to move your ideas forward in the organization, your department and your group and get people to act on them.

  • You have the desire and ability to reach consensus on complex matters with a number of different concerned folks – the stakeholders.

  • You are able to convince C-Level executives to get funding approved for projects that are important to you and to your organization.

Examples of Bad politics…

The point of the examples is to show that office politics can have bad implications:

  • You are able to move your ideas forward by cunningly asking for favor, trying to reject other opposing ideas no matter how good they are and taking credit for the ideas of your team members.

  • You have the desire and an ability to reach consensus by working behind the scenes with C-Level executives, making deals and destroying people who don’t agree with you.

  • You try to get funding for projects by lying and misrepresenting the costs and benefits, and by not following the established funding processes.

How To Manage Political Issues As Project Manager…

Identify the problem as political issue. It’ll bring visibility to the situation and will hopefully get the right responsible people involved in the resolution.

Keep three things in mind to manage a political issue as project manager:

  1. Recognizing the situation…

    Be proactive and recognize situations and events where office politics are most likely to occur. These situations can include events where and when decisions are made, competition with other groups for budget and resources. They can also include setting project direction and priorities.

  2. Dealing with people…

    Like our mothers used to say: “Honesty is the best policy.” Deal with people openly and honestly. At the time when you provide an opinion or recommendation, provide a balanced view by expressing genuinely the pros and cons of the subject matter. Make sure your recommendations are based on facts.

  3. Feeling uncomfortable…

    There might be a time when you’d feel uncomfortable with what you are asked to do. Your best bet is to get your senior manager involved who have positional authority, and should be able to provide you with genuine advice.

In a Nutshell
You are handling office politics the right way if you feel good about what you are doing and how you are getting things done. Continue doing it. Sooner or later, you’ll be the darling of your senior managers.

You are handling office politics the wrong way if you feel guilty about having second thoughts about the methods you are using to get things done. Quit doing it. Sooner or later, you’ll be exposed and will stand naked – so to speak – in front of your senior managers.

Courtesy of…

This column is © copyright to and originally appeared in their weekly project management tip newsletter.

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