Corporate initiatives that prove to be negative for the organization or projects that seem to destroy teams rather that address business needs often face significant resistance.  Rightly so, stakeholders are responsible for pointing out the need for change or at least corrective action.

The negative consequences can either emerge due to mismanagement of a given project or because the fundamental premise behind that initiative is actually wrong.  However, what adds additional confusion to situations such as this is that sometimes resistance can be created because of negative perception as opposed to reality.  Additionally, in some situations we find that people who consider themselves “losing out” because of the supposed transformation will attempt to fight against the project.

Assuming however there is a project that is either out of control or one that will not provide value, there is a responsibility for key stakeholders and leaders to do something about it.  What I find interesting is that often the action generated against this project comes in the form of sabotage.  Either to discredit the project leaders or to dismantle the project overall.

The thing that has been going through my mind is tactics that stakeholders should employ without having to sabotage the organization or  destroy the organization in the process.  This is where project managers need to establish early warning systems in place to allow for team members and processes to raise the flag letting them know that there is an attempt to undermine the project.

However, just as importantly, the project manager needs to be working with the team and the executives to ensure that:

  • the project business objectives are valid
  • the outcome of the project will provide the appropriate value as deemed necessary by stakeholders
  • the corporate initiatives are managed properly and that there are effective mechanisms for corporate governance and effective progress
  • there are corrective mechanisms in place to address deviations and significant variations which may cause projects to derail

Only when the above points are met consistently can the project manager do an effective job in fighting off sabotage.  For if the project was met with resistance for instance and the team had limited understanding of strategic alignment, then it is difficult to determine if this resistance is legitimate or not.

During a training session last week I shared with attendees that one of the hardest things that a project manager may have to do is to kill a project.  Often times the PM will face as much resistance in doing so as they would in actually carrying the project forward.  Once the project starts it is hard to stop it and it keeps getting harder as time passes.  In part this is due to many stakeholder not understanding the concept of sunk costs.

The important lesson learned to remember is that this all starts at the very beginning by ensuring that the project is initiated for the right reasons and embedding processes within the system from planning all the way to delivery.  Sabotage is not easy to fight but it is part of the political game that has to be taken into consideration in most organizations.