Has it been like pulling teeth to get project team members to come to meetings? Would it be easier scheduling time with the Queen of England than with your manager who has oversight on your project? The hard, but cold truth can be that your project is in a “value vacuum”. In other words, people find working on or supporting your project less valuable than whatever else they are doing.
Unfortunately in many organizations EVERYTHING is so valuable that everything is priority number one, but of course that is not possible. So in the absence of an orderly prioritization of activities, people are forced to prioritize on their own. This results in firefighting or in individuals choosing what to work on in the moment.
Yet if the value is high enough, it is amazing to see how supportive and engaged people can be. Value drives action and ultimately project success. Yet some think of value in terms of project value alone. Yet for value to be potent, it must be personal. What does the individual get from working on the project? To understand personal, here is an example. I love coffee and especially McDonald’s coffee with two creams. If I asked you to bring me a large McDonald’s coffee, how motivated are you to do this especially if you live in another part of the country? Yet, what if I were an eccentric billionaire (I am not) and I offered you a million dollars to bring me the coffee within 24 hours, would you find a way if you knew you’d be paid? How about if you had a big meeting at work tomorrow or you had to fly in from California? Would you still do what was needed to get the coffee to me in time? My guess is you would because the “value proposition” is strong enough.
While most project managers don’t have a million dollars to dangle over stakeholders, there are other things that increase the value proposition. Never underestimate the power of recognition. If stakeholders know their participation will result in project success and recognition, it can satisfy a number of personal goals including promotion or increased income. Sometimes projects offer training or expansion of knowledge. The key is to find the value proposition that works for the individual stakeholder and the best way to know is to ask. Can’t find a value proposition for the key stakeholders? Well maybe it is time to ask if the project is really worth doing at this time. After all with so much to do, maybe the most valuable thing to do is postpone or terminate the project.