Strategic Projects: Work the team, not the Project!
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Strategic Priorities: Are your leaders cautious collaborators?

Perhaps you remember a time when you greeted with enthusiasm an invitation to participate in, or join a meeting about a new initiative. That is when you were new to the organization or your role – when you didn’t know any better!  

Since then you have learned to be more cautious – to contain your enthusiasm about the latest “strategic project or initiative”.  You have participated on too many committees, attended too many meetings or workshops and seen to many projects and initiatives “go quietly into the night.” 

How skeptical are your leaders of new projects & initiatives?

Besides you are a lot busier than you used to be.  Your inbox is over-flowing and diary is full.  Indeed, it often seems as if there just aren’t enough hours in the day!  Another project or series of meetings is the very last thing you need!

If you are going to be engaged in a new project or initiative, you will want to make sure that it is the right one.  You need to do your due diligence – to make sure that you are ‘backing the right horse’, so to speak.

Have people been slow to commit to your strategic initiative?  

Like any seasoned leader you are slow to commit.  If you have to show up, you will do so with caution – reluctant to be saddled with additional tasks and responsibilities, or to attach your name to something that is yet unknown or uncertain.  

You don’t want to tie your name to an initiative until you know that it has a chance of success – until you better understand the business case, the sponsor, the politics, the stakeholders, the risk of failure, and so on.  

Here are just some of the questions you are likely to be asking yourself (see picture).

This is what is happening every day in organizations and it goes a long way to explain the challenges many organizations face in the execution of their strategic priorities. It is not the leaders that are to blame, however.  There is probably a wise response given the system/environment in which they operate. Until it is clear that the organization and the sponsors of its key strategic initiatives are fully committed, it makes sense to be skeptical.

Have leaders decided to go ‘all-in’ on your strategic priority?

Experts tell us that we will be increasingly defined by the projects and initiatives that we work upon.  In the future of work our ‘project portfolio’ will matter more than our job description, title or role.  However, adding a new project to an leaders portfolio requires a calculated decision considering factors such as:

  • Will they be freed up from other work so they can participate?
  • What additional responsibilities or work load will be involved?
  • What rewards or incentives are involved?
  • Is it an initiative or project worthy of mention on their CV?  Will they get to:
    • Work with some exciting new technology?
    • Build their professional network? 
    • Learn a new skill?
    • Work with some interesting people?
    • Travel or get a new experience?

How will you ‘sell’ your initiative to your team?

Having seen many initiatives ‘wither on the vine’ leaders must cherry pick those projects and initiatives that will help rather than hinder their career.  In determining what project or initiative to embrace, leaders often take their lead from:

  • Their boss. Maybe even their bosses’ boss (e.g. is it one of their bosses top 3 priorities, will it be talked about at the board, etc.)
  • The level of commitment evidenced by the sponsors (as well as the power of those sponsors)
  • The behaviors of other participants (e.g. other team members, stakeholders, etc.). 
  • Whether deeds match words in terms of the allocation of resources. 
  • The project manager / leader is – their style – their track record of success, etc.

For sponsors looking to recruit and enroll leaders in a new project the above list can be a useful tool.

What signals are leaders getting regarding your strategic initiative?

If you want to energize and engage your leaders in the pursuit of key projects and priorities Pitstop to Perform™® can help.  

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