Negotiate Project Success
We wear so many hats as project managers over the course of our projects and our careers. I don’t want to make PMs sound like superheroes because we aren’t. We often have to be a ‘jack of all trades’ and if you lack the ability or confidence to take on multiple roles (often several at the same time) then perhaps the PM world isn’t for you. In order to negotiate project success we must be resource managers, taskmasters, salespeople, conflict resolvers, workflow managers, documentation specialists, business analysts, tech gurus on some projects (or at least talk the talk), wise and on-the-spot decision-makers.
The need to negotiate
The need to negotiate our projects probably comes up more times than we ever realize. We negotiate with our team on who takes on what task; we negotiate with vendors on when they are going to deliver if something is running late, we negotiate with our internal resource gatekeepers on how soon we can onboard that data specialist to our project…it happens throughout engagements. Often these may have huge impacts on our project timelines and are just part of our daily project management life often happening without us thinking about them as a negotiation. Can you say sales ability is required?
However, there are times when negotiation skills are important to make things happen on our project that would otherwise cause great harm. Times when a key deliverable won’t be ready or a phase of a project must be moved out farther or swapped with another phase to keep the project moving forward when it might otherwise be cancelled or halted for days, weeks, or even months.
For these events or critical project crossroads, project managers often find they must figure out a way to negotiate timetables, costs, delivery schedules, and task sequences to be able to keep the project viable. They must learn how to become master negotiators.
Key areas of negotiation on our projects are:
How many times have you had a key resource pulled from your project for another ‘critical’ project? Or how many times have you needed a particular skill set that you don’t have at the moment? An organization only has so many resources and only so many ‘experts’ in a particular area. When resource negotiation comes up you may find yourself negotiating individual resource availability with the resource gatekeeper in your organization. You may even find yourself involving the customer and the rest of your team as you try to shift portions of the project timeline and tasks around to accommodate when a particular ‘key resource’ can be made available for your project need.
Funding – I’ve never led a project that had an abundance of money. It may have started out looking like it did, but that’s never how they finish. And everything from outside vendors, to resource availability, change orders, risks, and major issues can necessitate an increase in project funding. That may need to come from the customer – usually in the form of change orders – or from your management needing to throw more money at a project to keep it going. Either way, you’re likely going to have some give-and-take negotiations with either party to make it happen. Unless the customer requests the change order or sees an absolute need for it, then it’s not always an easy thing to get approved. And we all know that getting more money from executives in your organization requires a considerable amount of justification to negotiate project success.
Most of the negotiations I’ve had to do on projects centred around change orders and timeline issues. Timeline issues usually involve shifting priorities and tasks which require convincing the customer that this is a good thing for them even if it affects the project budget and timeline. It usually involves some negotiation to move phases around to ensure that the project still comes in on time or will still come in within a time frame that is acceptable to the key stakeholders.
In reality project negotiation starts during the project definition phase when creating the project charter. The hope is that once the project starts everything will run smoothly and life is great. Ya as if … Excellent project managers need to be awesome salespeople full-stop. Negotiation is just part of project management and is the area in which every project manager must acquire a high level of skill and expertise.