The business of innovation: how can project managers make sure stakeholders embrace change?

We explore how innovation can cause concerns amongst key stakeholders, and how your approach can manage these challenges and potential roadblocks.

 

Keep your cool

It can sometimes seem like everyone is in the business of innovation,  and project managers are increasingly under pressure to embrace the trend. One of the keys to successfully managing an innovative project is to try and maintain your cool.  Not something that is always easy in light of the many differing ideas and opinions that come from stakeholders who are either participating in the project or who are affected by it.   One of the first steps you should be taking is to identify these stakeholders, and have an effective system in place to be engaging with them and address any concerns they may have about the project.

 

Hold on for a bumpy ride

Brian Uzzi, the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois, points out in an article in the Harvard Business Review that innovative projects can be challenging – especially in regards to finding new ideas.

Uzzi proposes several steps when dealing with the challenges that the politics of innovation create. Firstly, anticipate that there will be resistance to the project (my fortune teller told me it was a bad idea!) and plan to deal with it early in the project management lifecycle. By identifying potential points of resistance early on, you can show how the benefits of the project can outweigh the concerns stakeholders may have.

 

Innovation requires allocation and deployment of organisational resources… without definite proof of future returns.”

 

Build Trust

Politics can mask the real concerns that stakeholders have but there are plenty of opportunities to remedy these issues, as Uzzi points out: “Innovation requires allocation and deployment of organisational resources… without definite proof of future returns. This ambiguity allows politics to enter into the choice process, as people attempt to influence decision-makers toward favouring innovations that advance their individual interests.”  In short, innovation can be a gamble and people have a vested interest in backing their own horses.

Try to  develop enough trust with your stakeholders to get them to reveal their true concerns about the project looking.  How? Well, for starters by looking after them  – simple things like food and beverages at meetings through to fostering transparency, collecting and sharing information and data, mean you can then start working to gather and present data that addresses the real issues and start moving forward.

 

Be prepared to pilot your idea

 

Uzzi continues this topic and alludes to the dilemma that occurs when workers are trying to implement a new idea: “People won’t support an idea without sufficient evidence it works, but securing data-based evidence of an idea’s effectiveness requires launching it in some form.”

 

“People won’t support an idea without sufficient evidence it works, but securing data-based evidence of an idea’s effectiveness requires launching it in some form.”

Overcoming the internal politics can be one of the most challenging project management techniques, sometimes even more so than developing the project concept itself!

If you’re looking for a helping-hand throughout a project, Verto’s cloud-based management software can help stakeholders work together with the project management team, as both parties can access the software to view the latest project reports, provide updates and communicate with each other.

It takes a lot of work to effectively engage stakeholders for the long-term as a project progresses, but Verto can help simplify the process for you. Like what we’ve got to say? Why not follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn as well.