One of the common issues that we hear is, “How do I get other people in the organization to see how important project management is?” This question is really related to how one sells project management to others in the organization. In general, the only way that others will accept project management is if they see the value that it provides. These four strategies are directed at demonstrating the value of project management to others:

1. Use the Credibility of Others

I don’t know why this happens, but people will believe something they read in a newspaper, magazine or Web site over what a colleague tells them. This doesn’t make sense, but if this is the case, then let’s use it to our advantage. Find articles in popular publications that support the use of project management and use them to sell the ideas internally. One great source is Fast Company magazine. Their web site, www.fastcompany.com has all of their articles archived. One way to use articles is to send an article to other is the organization by e-mail about every 5-6 weeks. In the e-mail, say that you thought it was an interesting article and list a few key points that you liked, then provide the web link to the full article. Even if they don’t read the full article, they will get the key points from your summary. It may take a while, but the ideas will start to make an impact and someone will come to you suggesting that you try project management because of some articles they read of where it worked in other organizations. Then you support them as if it was their idea all along.

2. Start Simple

If you try to implement an entire project management process all at once it will be too overwhelming and will end in failure. A better approach is to start with the two steps that we have found show value the quickest – team roles & responsibilities and a clear project scope. Two of the common problems in projects are team member being unclear of what they are responsible for and the team not being clear on what the project needs to deliver. By starting with a definition of each role and the related responsibilities, we can help team members better understand the unique contribution they will make to the team. When we involve them in developing a project scope statement, we help them to commit to a project that they clearly understand. These two steps can help project team members and sponsors to see the value of project management quickly, and once this is done, you will be invited to use more tools and techniques to help the project even more.

3. Use Common Language

It is easier for people to see value in things that they understand. If the terminology and language that you use is too technical or unfamiliar, people will have a hard time seeing the value in project management. Make sure you use words and phrases that are familiar to those you wish to reach. Find stories and examples from their area or from similar organizations so they see how it relates to them and what they do. You may have to explain some of the terms in project management in a way they can relate to before you can explain the concept. Examples that we have seen used include: project constraints being referred to as the box that the project operates within, and the time spent planning a project being seen as investing time up front to save time later similar to investing small amounts now for a financially secure retirement later.

4. Get Referrals

Some people will trust the judgement of their peers, so one way to reach them is to have a referral from a satisfied client. When you do good work on a project for a client (internal or external), ask if they know any other projects that might benefit from some of the steps that you followed. If they can give you a referral, it is the highest form of compliment because they are willing to put their own reputation on the line for you. In this way, the person or project you are referred to will trust the value judgement of the referrer and transmit that value judgement to you and to project management. This may be the only way to reach some areas of your organization, but it is all dependant on the quality of the work that you do, so make sure you are managing the projects well.

Selling project management is not always going to be easy, but if you take the view that demonstrating the value of project management will sell the idea far better than anything we say, then using these four strategies will help you show that value and help others to conclude for themselves that project management is a useful, valuable approach for the organization.

Dave Paradi

David Paradi, senior associate of Business Improvement Architects, is an experienced facilitator and Project Leader. He specializes in the areas of Project Management and Leadership and is a presentations expert. David has a solid understanding of Project Management and Leadership through his experience as a project leader, project team member and facilitator of strategic planning processes. He has led development of strategic directions for organizations, project teams in the launch of new products, the development of next generation administration and marketing systems and the introduction of processes that are more streamlined.