Earlier we talked about the hallmarks of leaderless projects and some of the issues they bring. It’s crucial to reignite stakeholder engagement, hold one champion accountable for supporting the project, and sidestep a leadership-by-committee structure if you see one looming on the horizon. If you suddenly find yourself knee deep in a project without a champion, what can you do?
1 – Reconnect with your champion. If you suspect your primary stakeholder has (or is planning to) jump ship, don’t hesitate to re-engage them. You may be tempted to start the courtship by e-mail, but savvy Project Managers will opt for a more direct route. Schedule a brief meeting with the stakeholder to bring them up to speed on the project and the challenges their absence may have created.
2 – Know what you need from your champion. As you bring your champion back into the loop, be prepared with timelines and budgets that highlight any problem areas. Also explain issues you anticipate to encounter should the team continue without the stakeholder’s support. Provide the champion with a list of immediate needs, if any—resource authorizations, approvals for action, etc. Even if you don’t get their full attention, you may at least receive the support the project needs to succeed.
3 – Put the leadership back on one champion. If you suspect your project is leaning toward leadership-by-committee, it’s crucial that you place one stakeholder at the top of the organizational chart, and fast. Try to identify a stakeholder with the highest approval authority as well as influence. Have a candid conversation with your champion to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding existing problems, support needs going forward, and expectations on both sides. Close the loop with your team and others impacted by the project by announcing the champion’s formal leadership position.