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Advising Upwards – Helping your Managers Help You

Advice is judged by results, not intentions.
Cicero (196BC - 36BC)

Keywords: Stakeholder, Relationships, Communication, Soft Skills. 

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Advising Upwards – Helping your Managers Help You   [P128]

Your project will only be considered successful if its key stakeholders perceive the project’s outcome as a success. These perceptions of success or failure are heavily influenced by the effectiveness of the project’s communications, and relationships, with its stakeholder community. Studies have consistently shown a critical factor in creating successful project outcomes is the active support of senior stakeholders, particularly the sponsor. Successful project managers understand this and are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that their senior stakeholders understand the project’s needs and fulfil their support roles. This requires the project manager to be skilful at advising upwards, using effective stakeholder management techniques to engage the support of senior executives and to manage their expectations.

No-ones’ expectations are ‘fixed’; effective communication, containing advice that is accepted and acted upon, helps make perceptions and expectations realistic and achievable; as well as helping gather the support required for project success. Crafting this advice to senior management to achieve the required outcomes from the communication is as much an art as a science. Communicating for effect requires a clear understanding of the objective of the communication and the skills to create messages that are focused; on the right people, at the right time and carry the right information in the right format.

The experiences of the author, working as a senior project manager in a large, traditional organisation will be used to define the framework needed to ‘advise upwards’ using influence networks, targeted communication and plain persistence. The results were not miraculous but definitely beneficial to the successful delivery of a number of projects.

See also: Tapping the Power Lines

Author: Lynda Bourne


Dublin, Ireland

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Management Decision
Vol. 49 Iss: 6, pp.1001 - 1023

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