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Guest blogon behalf of thePeople SIG by Sarah Coleman, chair of the Derby Chapterand a director at Business Evolution.

I was recently invited to speak at a conference for business change and transformation. Two main issues in particular kept surfacing: how can project managers engage and maintain the attention of senior leaders in their organisations, and how can they demonstrate the value of project management to organisations that do not have a tradition of using it?

To put this in context, three particular issues typically facing businesses at this time are:

a)We have spent the last 4 years working under some of the most challenging economic times many of us have seen. How are we going to grow the business?

b)We are anticipating significant business change and transformation to help meet business growth. How do we ensure we bring everyone with us?

c)Matrix management, virtual teams and geographic spread are the norm for us. How do we ensure we touch everyone to make it easy to share the vision and the strategy?

Know your audience and make it relevant to them
One of the most effective ways of securing the attention of a senior level audience is to understand their issues, targets, objectives and challenges. Identify what is important to them, what else is competing for their attention and how they have chosen to prioritise it. Clarify how the project you are working on can positively impact their initiatives. Not all organisations recognise the need or the value of project management, especially when skilled project managers make it look boringly successful.

Language and style
Are you comfortable with the language of business? Can you speak it confidently, or do you find it too full of jargon? The phraseology and wordsmithing typical of business speak is often dry and stark; it can lack depth, expression and emotion. Which language sets do your leaders use, and can you improve your rapport with them by mirroring the type, pitch, volume and pace of language they are using?

Getting the buy-in and continued support of business leaders is now an integral part of project management: we need to be able to demonstrate how it contributes to the strategic aims of the business, and how it delivers clear and persistent value to the business.

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Posted by Sarah Coleman on 13th Jun 2012

About the Author
Sarah Coleman is a Fellow and former Trustee of the APM. She started her career in ICT and draws on over 25 years’ experience in the project and programme arena. She specializes in improving the performance of projects, programmes and change in organizations, and in developing project, programme and change professionals. Sarah is a Visiting Fellow at Lincoln University, and is regularly invited to speak at business schools, conferences and professional body events. She is a published author “Project Leadership” (Gower, 2015), "Dealing with Power and Politics” for “Business Analysis and Leadership” (Kogan Page, 2013) and is currently editing a book on organizational change (due to be published February 2017).

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