Increasing Executive Engagement On Improvement Projects
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is perhaps the most well known self-help book ever sold. While Trindent doesn’t offer guidance on making friends, we coach our clients on how to ‘manage up’ effectively and exert influence, particularly when it comes to executive engagement in continuous improvement initiatives. This article will focus on three aspects of influencing the behavior of executives:
- Why it’s important to have them in attendance at project milestones
- How to ensure their attendance, and
- How to improve their engagement
Executive Involvement in Project Meetings
First, why is it important to have executives in attendance at project milestones meetings? Pragmatically, if an executive is providing resources to a project, whether it’s in the form of personnel or financial support, they are inherently interested in the results being generated. After all, they report to shareholders or owners and need to be able to justify their investment. Tactically, executive attendance signifies the importance of the project to the company and brings gravitas to the presentation. This signals to the project team, as well as the rest of the organization, that the initiative is an important one and deserves respect and attention.
If their attendance is so important, what can we do to ensure it? From the early phases, executive attendance needs to be communicated as a critical success factor to the project, and their commitment and attendance should be requested. If this is an issue, or they aren’t comfortable committing to attending, then it may be time to take a step back to determine if the project is a priority for the organization because if it’s not, it will be challenging, if not impossible, to complete it successfully. Once you have their initial commitment, make sure the meeting is calendared as soon as possible. Then, during the lead-up to the presentation, remind stakeholders of the date and time and provide a countdown, if necessary, to renew their commitment.
Finally, with a commitment from executives that they will be in attendance, how do you ensure they will be engaged and actively participating during the presentation instead of checking e-mails on their phone or otherwise being a passive observer. Being engaged requires preparation, so do them a favor: pre-wire the presentation along with talking points and questions ahead of time, which will guide them on how and where to contribute. This is also a good opportunity to address any potentially contentious questions ahead of time, rather than allowing them to derail the presentation in progress.
In conclusion, having your executive sponsor, and if possible, their superior, attend milestone presentations is important in successfully executing projects. The easiest way to ensure their attendance is to ask for it. Get a commitment early and provide reminders leading up to the presentation. Finally, help them engage in the presentation by providing them with some reconnaissance: suggest talking points, questions, and praise on an advance copy of the presentation.
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The author of this article – David Kerry is a Senior Engagement Manager at Trindent consulting.