Friday, 10 April 2009

Musings on Influence and Project Success

For ages I've personally felt that influencing people was one of my weakest ares in need of development, so I was quite surprised when two senior managers independently commented that from their perspective I succeed in influencing people so disagreed with my own assessment.  Reflecting on this I wonder if perhaps what they are seeing as 'influencing' is really my motivating people to achieve things in the short-term (which admittedly is a rather important trait for a project manager) and not 'influencing' at all.

I recently read an interesting article 'How to 10X Your Influence' by Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, and Andrew Shimberg which was published in the MIT Sloan Management Review.  They are from the same stable of Vital Smarts that produced the excellent 'Crucial Conversations' and 'Crucial Confrontations'.  It outlines the results of some amazing research which identified 6 sources of influence and concluded that if strategies are applied using at least 4 of these sources, we can influence vital behaviours and achieve sustainable change.

That's the key thing for me... sustainable change.  As a project manager I can introduce change, get people's buy-in, implement process and technology changes, and even effect some behaviour change during the lifetime of the project.  What concerns me is that by it's very nature, a project has an end and the project manager moves on to other things.  So - what happens then?  I made it very clear in the presentation I gave when interviewed for my current role that in my view a project manager delivering within time, within scope, within budget, to the required quality does not represent project success because the actual benefits of a project come afterwards.  Project success, to me anyway, is actually determined by the people who are expected to make use of the solution (whether it be a new process or technology or something else).  If those people don't make the changes in behaviour - then the change will be fleeting and all the time and effort spent on the project could be a complete waste of time and energy.  Yes, I know we learn things from the experience successful or otherwise- but in terms of making effective use of scarce resources etc. the argument stands.

This brings me back to the article again.  I really like the model that the authors have produced as it is easy to grasp and very powerful.  I picked up a copy of their book whilst at a masterclass session run by Graham Robb Associates on Wednesday morning (*makes mental note to say more about this in another post*).  Entitled 'Influencer: The Power to Change Anything' and a NY Times Bestseller, it was named as business book of the year 2008 by Soundview.  What's more interesting that the accolades is the stories - take a look at the videos on their website.  I'm looking forward to reading it over the Easter holidays.  If you want to have a peek yourself, the first chapter is available online.

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