P3 managers will often be in a position where the exercise of direct authority is either inappropriate or impossible. In these situations the manager must seek to affect the behaviours and actions of others through influence rather than authority. The goals of influencing are to:
- develop and maintain a high performing team;
- persuade stakeholders to support the objectives;
- persuade stakeholders to support the achievement of the objectives.
Models of leadership, such as Hersey and Blanchard, mirror models of teamwork, such as Tuckman. One of the strong themes of these models is that as the team develops, the manager’s style must change from authoritative to supportive. In a high performing team with a supportive manager, one of the manager’s key skills will be influencing. In this relationship, the manager is not so much telling the team members what to do as influencing them to do the right thing.
While influencing is a useful skill to back up authority, it is an essential skill when the P3 manager doesn’t have the necessary authority. Stakeholder management identifies numerous people that the P3 manager needs to influence. This influence may be required to overcome objections, provide resources or even help influence others.
Models for the nature and practice of influencing include Cialdini and Cohen and Bradford. These have many common features and emphasise two common themes:
- understand the people you wish to influence;
- understand what you can do for them in return for what you want them to do for you.
To achieve this, a successful influencer will:
- understand their own behaviour and how it relates to others;
- have a clear vision of what the work involves and how it affects others;
- communicate effectively using all appropriate means;
- negotiate to find mutually acceptable solutions to issues;
- understand context, including cultural, social and political factors;
- behave ethically at all times.
A P3 manager’s ability to influence is often based on different sources of power as described by Montana and Charnov. A manager must understand their sources and levels of power so that they can be used constructively and certainly not abused.
If influencing is successful, it will result in changes of attitude and behaviour of those being influenced. The result will be acceptance of, and support for, the objectives of the work.
Influencing can take many forms. It can be deliberate or accidental, overt or discrete, focused or widespread. The P3 manager must be aware of all these aspects both beneficial and detrimental. The manager’s actions to positively influence one person may negatively influence another; effort in influencing a delivery team may create enthusiasm that positively influences others. As will all aspects of P3 management, the P3 manager must habitually consider the consequences of their actions.
While an individual’s ability to influence will be based largely on their personality and behaviour, it is also dependent on their position in the organisation. Sometimes even the most skilled P3 manager will need support from their sponsor simply because the influencing skills need to be backed up by the kind of authority or credibility that is linked to seniority in the organisation.
Projects, programmes and portfolios
A P3 manager has nominal authority over the members of their management and delivery teams, but since many projects and programmes operate in a matrix organisation, those same team members will have other allegiances. As a result, team members will be subject to different, and sometimes conflicting, influences. The P3 manager needs to understand this context and probably influence other managers in the matrix so that they act in support of the project or programme.
Programmes, and some projects, will include work to realise benefits, which will incorporate change management. Implementing and embedding change is not something that can be done through authority alone. People in the affected business-as-usual parts of the host organisation must be encouraged to accept and support the proposed change and value the predicted benefits, all of which require influencing skills.
As the work becomes more complex, so do the relationships between all the various stakeholders. On a programme, one stakeholder may be affected by multiple projects and a programme manager needs to ensure that attempts to influence stakeholders by different project managers are not counter-productive. The programme level co-ordination of stakeholder management will include co-ordinated communications aimed at influencing the stakeholder. The programme manager must balance the needs of multiple projects and focus the communication in a way that has the greatest net benefit to the programme.
At the upper end of the complexity scale, portfolio management requires the involvement and support of executive teams and management boards throughout the host organisation. Strong leadership is required at the very top of the organisation to provide a background of authority for the portfolio objectives. Strong influencing skills will be required to address a complex web of interests in the portfolio.
This doesn’t necessarily stop at the boundaries of the host organisation. A portfolio is the most visible aspect of P3 management to the outside world and if the host organisation wishes to gain support from shareholders, public bodies, customers etc., then influence must be available at the highest level.