Protect Your Project Team – Part 1: Be Politically Sensible


“You have to learn the rules of the game.  And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator, first woman elected mayor of San Francisco

How can you use political sensibility to protect the project team from disruption and interference in order to increase effectiveness?

If you are to protect your team, you must be “politically sensible.” “Politicking” is an important requirement for project success. Politics is neither good nor bad.  Acknowledge politics as a “fact of project life.”

Learn to cultivate appropriate political tactics.  Play radio station “WIIFT” (What’s In It For Them).  Get to know how power works and who wields it.  Build relationships with these people.  Understand the organizational structure you work in.

Politically sensible project leaders get the 411 on everybody and everything, make friends with strategic people, scratch backs, use quid pro quo, build coalitions, and identify key players, and know what game is being played.  They get out of the trees so they can see the forest.

Here is an example of what I mean.  A few years ago I was told that part of the ABC project team was going to be shared with the XYZ project.  The team would be required to do both the ABC and XYZ projects at the same time, in two different locations.  I looked at the work breakdown structure and risk register and determined that the ABC project could not be successful without the staff that was already allocated to it.

Six months earlier, I had volunteered to serve on a committee to plan the corporation’s 25th anniversary celebration.  The committee included some top managers and the Chief Operating Officer (COO).  Through that relationship, the COO became aware of the ABC project and said it was very important to the company, and was personally interested in seeing it succeed.

I was able to leverage this situation and the knowledge of the COO to reverse the decision and protect the team’s resource allocations as originally planned.  The ABC project was completed on target, on time, and on budget.

Part 2 will detail a procedure for project leaders to use to protect the project team and cultivate political tactics.

James L. Haner

Building a Business Case as the Foundation for Project Success – Download this article & read how you can ensure project success by developing and applying a solid Business Case throughout a project’s lifecycle.

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