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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.

Sarah Coleman

Posted by Sarah Coleman on 13th Jun 2012

About the Author

Sarah Coleman is a Chartered Project Professional, Fellow and former Trustee of APM.  She is a thought-partner and advisor working at leadership team and board level across government, the public sector and private sector organisations.  Sarah has over 30 years' experience across the entire lifecycle from inception to closure and of every aspect of project, programme and portfolio management and of transformation across private sectors, public services and government in the UK and internationally.  She is valued for her excellent communication style, relationship-building skills at all levels of the organization, her willingness to share experience and knowledge gained in other sectors, and her ability to challenge positively and constructively. 

Since October 2016 Sarah has been an Infrastructure and Projects Authority Associate, Major Projects Reviewer and Subject Matter Expert (Projects, Programmes and Transformation) for infrastructure, digitisation and transformation.  Sarah has extensive experience of every aspect of projects, programmes and transformation across the entire lifecycle (from early stage shaping and scoping through to start-up, delivery and closure) and across all activities (establishing governance and process, planning, performance reporting, benefits management, risk identification and management, through to communication and stakeholder engagement.  She also has robust experience of assuring projects, programmes and transformation, and of developing competency frameworks and L&D strategies for in-house capability building. She helped Wellingtone develop their APM Accredited Assurance Practitioner Course.

Sarah’s work over the last few years has encompassed the UK nuclear estate, HS2 P-Rep team, critical friend support across UK government departments and GMPP reviews.   Clients and former employers have included BT plc, Rolls Royce plc, Grant Thornton UK LLP, Experian, Diamond Light Source Ltd, Pera, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Stroke Association, NHS, Legal and General, Home Office, Bank of America, PA Consulting, Defra, COLT Technology Services, Department for Transport, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Air Miles amongst others. 

Sarah holds an MBA from Cranfield School of Management and is a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University.  She is a Chartered Project Professional, Fellow and former Non-Executive Director of the Association for Project Management, and a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute. 

Sarah is a published author ((“Project Leadership: skills, behaviours, knowledge and values” (APM Publishing, 2018), “Project Leadership” (Gower, 2015), “Organizational Change Explained” (Kogan Page, 2017), “Dealing with Power and Politics” for “Business Analysis and Leadership: Influencing Change” (Kogan Page, 2013)), and contributor to books ('Strategies for Project Sponsorship' (2013), Management Concepts Press; 'Developing the Practice of Governance', APM Publishing 2020), professional bodies of knowledge ('APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition', APM Publishing 2019) and professional journals. She has also guest lectured at Cranfield University, Loughborough University, Oxford Brookes University, Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University.  She regularly presents for professional bodies and at P3M community conferences.  She is a qualified and experienced coach and mentor. 

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