- IT / Communications
"Influence is everything"
Less than two weeks after completing a large, critical wireless backup deployment project for 150+ locations of a Global bank in Canada, the cellular modem hardware started failing.
This was especially challenging because this project was to enhance network resiliency / redundancy and had visibility from global stakeholders, who wanted to replicate in other countries, if successful.
The issue was particularly difficult to identify, but it turned out that the built-in backup battery in the cellular modems was overheating, causing the device to shut down.
The solution required us to REVISIT all 150 sites to replace the recently deployed modems with a new model of modem that did not have the same design / battery issue. This required significant coordination of multiple partners / stakeholders to "do right" by the customer:
- Manufacturer, to their credit, "stepped up" to provide replacement hardware, but had to be influenced to replace entire fleet.
- Installation partner was required to return to each site to swap hardware, and had to be influenced to do so quickly (as melting modems represent a safety hazard) and at a reduced cost (as scope of swap was reduced from original install and no party had budgeted for the extra scope).
- Customer had to be influenced not to cancel project and to rapidly approve change order for new hardware.
- My manager at the telecom had to be influenced to release me to coordinate the follow-up scope, which, in the end, ended up having to be managed as project in it's own right.
- Even though the replacement hardware was provided by the hardware manufacturer, Senior business stakeholders many levels up in my organization had to be influenced to fund return visits to all sites by our installation partner to remove / replace the faulty equipment.
Influence, the ability to affect someone else's behaviour, is one of the key skills to cultivate in Project Management.
If I had not been able to cultivate influence and maintain good relationships with ALL parties prior to the issue, I would not have had a successful resolution to the issue and the project. The keys to cultivating influence for this project were:
- Finding a shared goal and keeping that at the centre of each discussion was key to fostering influence in a short period.
- Making sure that everyone had some "skin in the game" - shared risk and reward was key to leveraging that influence and turning it into positive action.
- I ensured that, if there was a concession asked or cost-incurred from one party, that it was requested in the context of what concessions other parties were also making, thereby furthering points 1 and 2 above.
- Stakeholder management - knowing who to reach out to for what, and how to best interact and engage with them was key to my ability to influence a positive outcome - if you influence the wrong person or act in the wrong way, your influence won't turn into results.
- Communications management - knowing not only who to reach out to, but how to craft the information for the right message, right stakeholder, right time was critical to a successful outcome.
Significantly, so was acknowledging that the failing modems represented a project "crisis" and that regular project communication norms must be revisited in crisis was also key - frequency and style of communication was revised to reflect the additional "eyes on" and need to show rapid action to bring the project back into control.