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A project is not a tug o’ war

Adeline Teoh ed.
July 6, 2015

Whoever said ‘you can’t make a pearl without grit’ obviously wasn’t trying to manage a project where the stakeholders had competing KPIs.

You’ve been assigned a new project. You’ve had a look at the business case: a new system that will allow the business’ fleet of sales representatives to switch from paperwork to cloud reporting, which will reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks and associated costs. Looks good on paper, all is well.

You do a stakeholder assessment. All the sales reps will need to come in to be trained on the new system, which is fine and expected. After all, the long-term benefits from the new system will outweigh any short-term investments in time during the training period.

Then you come to the IT department, which is installing the software for the system and will be facilitating the training alongside the vendor. And after the IT department installs the system and hosts the training they will have a party to celebrate a project well done and continue on, business as usual.

Except that they won’t. The business sees the project as a efficiency exercise designed to decrease the costs associated with its sales fleet. It does not recognise that there may be a corresponding need for another department, in this case the IT department, to provide support for the new system without extra staff to do it.

The project improves the chances of the sales department reaching its KPIs for efficiency and cost reduction but dents the chances of the IT department functioning at an optimum. What do you think happens? Organisational disunity and, at worst, project sabotage.

This is a fictionalised example of (too) many real projects I’ve heard about in the last few months that have gone awry not because of the project manager or a bad business case but because the stakeholders have conflicting goals brought on by the project.

Have you ever had to deal with this situation?

Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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