When you look at the most common reasons why projects fail, often the root cause is a lack of visibility.
Poor visibility for your project’s mission within the organization may result in resources being reassigned to higher-priority projects, tepid executive support, unclear goals, and disengaged stakeholders—among other issues. In turn, that can affect your reputation and effectiveness as a project manager.
Projects that are less visible may be interpreted as having low earned value, making them not worth the effort, explained Ben Aston, trainer, certified scrum master, and founder of The Digital Project Manager. “Who wants the frustration of having to fight for resources or recognition for delivering a successful outcome?” he asked.
Here are some ways that experienced leaders build (and maintain) awareness for their projects in a meaningful way.
Brand Your Project
Why brand something like a tech project? Failing to apply the correct level of internal marketing will only make a manager’s job that much harder and, potentially, put the endeavor at risk, explained Peter Taylor, PMO expert and author of several books on project management (including “The Lazy Project Manager”).
When you brand a project, the directives people are given tend to make more sense, Taylor added via email. Creating just three lines that convey a clear vision of the result you’re trying to achieve (what), the value for the business (why), and the timeline (when) helps everyone understand what you’re asking them to do and why.
Having a strong internal brand will facilitate approvals and funding at various milestones. More importantly, should the project run into a bit of trouble (and which one doesn’t?), the brand equity will provide the credibility to overcome any challenges.
Lay the Proper Foundation
Devote a good amount of time to socializing the project and its mission before you begin. When others feel involved, they become engaged, and you have an improved chance of success. Also, turn influential people (i.e., “super connectors”) into advocates who can evangelize your work to others throughout the organization.
Create a Customized Communications Plan
Don’t treat communications as an afterthought. It’s easy to skip sending a status update or an email reminder about an upcoming milestone when your plate is too full, Aston noted. Calendarizing essential communications activities increases accountability and execution.
Providing the same report week in and week out is not going to work, either. The communication format and frequency should be tailored toward the needs and interests of stakeholders. The most effective plans outline what information will be shared, how it will be shared, when it will be shared and with whom.
For instance, instead of sending lots of emails to busy stakeholders, consider visualizing timelines, budgets and events. Providing a quick overview of progress helps stakeholders understand the impact of their decisions and actions on meeting deadlines.
Evangelize the “Why”
Once you reduce communication down to lists of tasks and asking for resources to meet deadlines, the stakeholders and team start to lose emotional commitment to the success of the project.
To win the hearts and minds of stakeholders, leaders would be well-served to apply the principle of positive reinforcement each time they communicate. Always lead with the benefits of the project each time you reach out.
“Target a recognized ‘need,’” Taylor suggested. “If the need for the project doesn’t exist, create it.”
Garner Executive Support
The success of any project often hinges on the advocacy of an influential project sponsor. While there are numerous ways to gather their support, tying the outcomes and rationale to the performance objectives and evaluation criteria of your executives (and the company) is a simple and effective way to grab and hold their attention.
Leverage Your Reputation
Without credibility, no amount of marketing or branding is going to increase a project’s visibility. If you have a proven track record of success, you may want to spread the word that you have become the lead.
While you don’t want to toot your own horn all the time, reputation building is critical for any project manager. “I learned something very important a long time ago, that no matter how a good a job you do if you don’t let people know then most people just won’t know,” Taylor noted.