A very good friend of mine had a lot of experience of both supporting and reviewing high profile government programmes. We worked together on a large complex programme that was beset with issues of office politics and complex (and often competing) stakeholder needs. He read my post on office politics and here is his response – he is happy for me to share it with you. It includes some very important advice for interim managers and consultants in particular. Thank you Howard!
“Inevitably large programmes have a number of stakeholders. The first thing to realise is that not all those stakeholders regard the programme as having the same priority-rating on their own “To Do” lists. A simple example is a major Change Programme which one stakeholder sees it as a major opportunity and another as a major threat.
The next thing to realise is that simply following process, e.g. PRINCE2 and/or MSP will not guarantee full control. I reviewed one big programme (via OGC) where for two years it was being reported as well on-time for delivery, then suddenly, as if out to the blue, it was announced 6 months behind schedule. The reason? While the monthly programme update reports from the front-line all arrived on time, they did not tell the whole truth, as those reporting only wanted to give the good news, not the bad. Pro-active reporting similar to audit would have prevented that.
The third major action is to be actively supportive, while not trying to grab the credit and the glory. When it comes to making presentations to senior management, e.g. the Permanent Secretary, Government Minister, make sure you always take a purely supportive role. Let the person who engaged you take the credit for doing so, not the blame for having to do so. Just remember that cartoon of the two cows standing in a field. The cow on the left says “Moo”. The cow on the right shouts “You b*****d, I was going to say that!”
Getting people on-side and supportive is what brings success – and lasting friendships”
Howard and I did form a very strong friendship after we had been through our baptism of fire and I am very grateful to him for contributing to this post.