Sundance Consulting Inc.
Helping People & Organizations Change


Here you will find a collection of articles related to the mystery and magic of people, organizations, leadership and change. 

Effective Project Management


Project management has long been an integral part of a changing organization. It has evolved into a sophisticated science over the years.

While opinions vary to a degree, consensus indicates success rates for projects range from 30 – 40%. That means about two-thirds of all projects fall short – either over budget, past deadline, or produce less than desired results.

Project management is both an art and a science. Unfortunately, the science side prevails in most organizations. The art side of the equation is either overlooked or misunderstood. The science aspect of project management results in a great project plan. Projects rarely fail on paper. The art aspect of project management results in engaged people.

Here are four essential components of the art side of project management:

  1. Clear Mandate for Project Team    

  2. Executive Ownership

  3. Middle Management Engagement

  4. Ongoing Communication


Clear Mandate for the Project Team

Project teams are temporary task forces, ideally drawn from all parts of the organization the project will impact, who are pulled together to fulfill a two-part mandate.

The first side of the mandate is to develop the plan for change. Most project charters do a very thorough job of laying out all the work involved – clearly defining the focus, the team, rationale, desired outcome, significant dates, executive sponsor, methodology, key milestones, resources required, restraints & risks, communication etc.

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The second side of the project team mandate is to help engage everyone impacted by the change with the willingness and ability to implement the plan successfully. Most project teams fall short of fulfilling this side of their mandate.

It is critically important project teams realize for as long as they are the project team, they are the experts on their change. They must do everything they can to keep the Senior Leaders, Managers and Supervisors up to speed with their progress. Simply hosting project meetings for Supervisors or building a project team web site is not nearly enough.

Project teams must find ways to get time on local work area team meetings to provide updates on the project. They must continually find ways to keep first level supervisors engaged.


Executive Ownership

Project teams rarely if ever have the power and authority to provide the necessary focus, incentives and consequences to ensure their project succeeds. Only the senior executives have that authority.

Over the years the term sponsor has been used extensively to identify the senior leader authorizing the change. Unfortunately, that gets interpreted as the person who makes the decision to change, launches the project team, and allocates funds and resources as required. Everything else is left to the project team. This approach rarely provides the necessary engagement at the senior level to ensure the change is successful.

Ownership suggests a different level of engagement from the senior leaders. They must continually reinforce why this project is important along with the consequences of not doing it right, stay connected with the project team, continually remove roadblocks in their way, and provide the necessary co-ordination between various project teams to avoid overlap and maximize efficiency.

They must see themselves, and be seen by the organization, as the final authority to ensure this change succeeds. Unless this project fits within the existing strategy and the normal power and authority flow of the organization, it will fail.


Middle Management Engagement  

The most important group of leaders in any changing organization are middle Managers and first level Supervisors. If they do not understand the rationale behind the changes, consequences of not being successful, that part of the plan that impacts their local work area and what they need to do to ensure the change is successful in their area, the change will fail miserably.

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Normally there will be some middle Managers and Supervisors on the actual project team which certainly helps. But they won’t all be involved.

Ensuring all middle Managers and Supervisors are up to speed with the project plan and how it impacts their local work area is really a big part of the second side of the project teams mandate.

It is also critically important for the Senior Leaders to stay connected to the middle Managers and Supervisors as the project team does their work and more importantly, after the project team disbands.


Ongoing Communication

Every project team builds communication into their project plan. Unfortunately, they woefully underestimate the insatiable appetite people have for change-related information. Sending emails, social media messages, creating project Facebook pages, project websites etc. all fall significantly short in truly engaging everyone with the change.

Project teams must understand they are one of the three most important groups who need to own change related communication. The other two are Senior Leaders and First Line Supervisors.

Project teams who use one-page briefing notes in support of face-to-face conversations that continually simplify the current change facts find these key leaders are significantly more engaged. This helps the Supervisors to ensure their employees are engaged.

Project teams don’t implement the changes. Senior Executives, Middle Managers and most importantly, first-line Supervisors ensure the employees implement the changes.

This is accomplished by balancing both the art and science aspect of project management. When it does happen, the energy flows in a uniform direction, excitement builds, and the projects are successful. 


Chris Edgelow

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Chris Edgelow