This is a guest post by Colin Gautrey from Learn to Influence. Colin is an author, trainer and executive coach who has specialized in the field of power and influence for over ten years. He combines solid research with deep personal experience in corporate life to offer his audiences critical yet simple insights into how to achieve results with greater influence.
In this article, my guest Colin Gautrey shares what you need to know about stakeholder management.
I first started out I worked for a branch of the intelligence services. Nothing terribly exciting, just a communications and IT specialist. Well okay, some of the time it was very exciting, but I can’t go into that.
Embedded in the culture was the concept of “need to know.” To minimize the risk that secrets would leak, you were only told things that were essential to perform your role. Nothing more, nothing less. For this to work, we all had to rely on someone at a more senior level making an accurate judgment about what we needed to know. Only they were allowed to see the bigger picture.
In fact, it was even a little risky asking questions lest suspicions were aroused. So generally people kept their heads down and did their job.
Why am I sharing this little snippet from my deep and distant past with you today?
It occurred to me the other day that a great many project managers are operating on a “need to know” basis, and a lot of the time, this is self-imposed.
Some of the reasons I’ve heard for this include:
Without a doubt, working on a “need to know” basis, be it self-imposed or not, creates a huge number of problems.
Project managers in this situation also complain about not being involved in the bigger decisions, losing the resources they need to do the job, struggling to get their stakeholders aligned, fighting wavering support for their project, wondering whatever happened to their sponsor, and more besides.
The answers to all of these challenges and problems lie in the region beyond the immediate “need to know.” Dare I say it, in the region where you are trusting that someone else knows what they are doing, and what you need to know.
In reality, what I am challenging here are the boundaries of what you need to know. Extending these limits will help you to make progress on solving these issues.
So, if you are blighted by some or all of the problems above, isn’t it time you did something about it?
Here are five ways you can begin to step beyond your current “need to know.”
All of these things need to be cultivated and become part of your modus operandi. When they are, you will quickly develop an intuitive grasp of the politics surrounding the work you love to do.
As an amusing way to end this short article, I’d like to share a little-known fact about the security services, at least as they were in my day.
If you wanted to get promoted, you had to demonstrate that you knew what was really going on, way beyond your “need to know.” Even they recognised that people needed to be able to see the bigger picture in order to successfully move up the ranks.
In effect, senior management were respecting the pursuit of secrets that people were not supposed to know, and more importantly, were not supposed to pursue!