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A contextual framework for understanding power, politics, & performance dynamics in project management

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  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Project managers influence strategies
    1. Authority
    2. Reward power
    3. Punishment power
    4. Expert power
    5. Referent power
  4. Project leadership styles
    1. System I leadership style
    2. System II leadership style
    3. Power diagnostic instrument
  5. Political strategies for managing change
    1. Allies: high agreement/high trust
    2. Opponents: high trust/low agreement
    3. Bedfellows: high agreement/low trust
    4. Fence sitters: low trust/unknown agreement
    5. Adversaries: low agreement/low trust
    6. Planning appropriate responses
  6. The politics of senior management relationships
    1. Visibility, Priority, Accessibility, Credibility, Strategy implementation
  7. Summary
  8. References

In the last two decades important gains have been made in our knowledge of project management. Much of this knowledge has focused on creating better tools to plan, execute, and control projects. There are, however, other important determinants of project success. Three areas which have received far less attention are how project leaders can gain support for their projects via their interpersonal power & influence; how to deal with those who can either block or help facilitate project accomplishment; and how to ?manage upwards,? e.g., managing key relationships with project sponsors and senior management. This paper presents an integrated view of the challenges project managers face in dealing with these issues. Keywords: Project leadership, project management politics, team leadership, senior management relationships, project teams

[...] Using Block framework and applying it to a project management environment, we focused on how to deal effectively with bedfellows, allies, adversaries, fence sitters, & opponents. Several strategies were suggested for handling each type of behavior. Finally, we examined four concepts helpful in managing the politics of project support. These concepts include managing visibility, priority, accessibility, and credibility. Several strategies were advanced for assessing & improving each of the factors. It is emphasized that this assessment needs to be several times during the life of a project. [...]


[...] As a general rule, the System II leadership approach is especially useful for ?boundary spanning? project leaders & coordinators. It is important to note that even though each leadership style emphasizes different power sources, a PM may use all power sources in gaining and maintaining project support Power Diagnostic Instrument There is no one way to assess which power sources will be most effective in different project management situations. However, the following diagnostic instrument can be helpful in assessing one's environment, one's power sources and its impact on others. [...]


[...] So, again, these four factors are highly interrelated and interdependent. Moreover, assessing the status of each factor should occur throughout the project as issues may develop which can adversely affect any of the factors SUMMARY The purpose of this paper has been to present a framework for understanding some of the power & political dynamics which occur within the project manager's work environment. This paper first examined the role of power in gaining and sustaining support for the project manager. [...]

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