Positioning Your Project with Executive Sponsors

At the last HRL Lunch Break, we talked about the importance of building credibility with the c-suite.  For this lunch break, we though it appropriate to dig a little deeper and discuss the other essential elements of positioning your project for success with executive sponsors.

1. Start With Yourself

  • What do you know?  Use your own knowledge and experiences or projects you may have worked on in the past to begin to understand your own starting point.
  • What are you available resources?  Reference company white papers, internal/external surveys, and research that’s already been done to expand your own understanding.
  • Who can you call?  Reach out to your manager, a mentor, or an appropriate contact that can fill you in on details or who has been around much longer than you have an can give you insight on obstacles you might encounter.

Remember to investigate by asking for information, educate by involving your stakeholders, validate by looking for objective measurements to correlate by verifying that objective measurements match opinions and perceptions, and finally, document by recording all data to ultimately support your recommendation.


2. Market to the Stakeholders

The next step involves marketing the business initiative to your stakeholders.  Marketing is about increasing visibility and getting the stakeholder’s attention by explaining what’s in it for them.  Get the executives’ attention by speaking on the value to the organization.  Either way, discuss the ROI specific to the audience, know the data thoroughly and you will gradually gain support.

Positioning your project advantageously involves:

  • Increasing the initiative’s visibility and familiarity with stakeholders
  • Discussing the pros and cons with subject matter experts
  • Discussing the cost/benefit analysis with Finance and ask for their input
  • Asking – is your immediate superior on board with the project’s value?
  • Considering all areas of stakeholders and support


3. “Organic Marketing” – Think “Grass Roots Marketing”

Organic marketing is the build up from the research you have done, your credibility, the relationships you have developed, the team you have built, and the support you have gained from your stakeholders.

What does Organic Marketing look like?

  • Word of mouth, talking about the benefits
  • Speaking at department and team meetings
  • Hosting a focus group
  • Posting flyers or sending email broadcasts
  • Writing an article in the company magazine

Remember to include the “What’s In It for Me” of the audience you are trying to reach.



4. The Executive Pitch – Hit it out of the park!

So you’ve done your research, talked to the stakeholders, explored all the options, understand the issues – and now you are ready to pitch your initiative to the executive team.  Tips for presenting to the executive team:

  • Be brief and succinct
  • Be clear
  • Know your data
  • Expect objections and prepare for them
  • Know the cost/benefit analysis
  • Be prepared to negotiate!


5. Approval! – Now what?

Once your project has been approved, it’s now back to the preparation phase and building your project team.  Your team will be those that help to launch your initiative.  So who should be on your team?  Choose key resident experts who can help you to outline each element of the initiative.

Remember that IT Manager that you interviewed three times during your research phase?  They already understand the challenges of launching this new software and the two of you have already discussed what could be done to work around them.  Now you ask them the question: “When I get ready to market this program, can I use notes and comments from our conversations to highlight our solutions?  It would be great to have you on board to be able to answer the technical questions and concerns that others might have.”

By putting more names out there, you are visually building your bench strength.  Even if you are the main project manager, you are building and gaining support from others in the organization.

Here are some suggestions of types of team members:

  • Within and outside your department (IT, HR, Finance, Operations, C-Suite, Sales)
  • Influencers or early adopters – people with the gift of gab but are also recognized as experts in the organization
  • Senior-level support will help to improve your initiatives visibility and acceptance
  • Nay-sayers – think about it – if you successfully convince someone who has question marks about your project, they could turn out to be one of your biggest supporters.  They will have probably highlighted areas of concerns that you didn’t think of that represent concerns for other in the organization.  Don’t forget that population!


Let’s recap the Best Practices checklist:

  • Personal Preparation and Assessment
  • Informational Interviews and Workshops
  • Identify the experts, influencers, senior leaders for your team
  • Conduct word-of-mouth campaigns
  • Keep the communication flowing to stakeholders through newsletters, articles, e-mails, etc. to keep them informed regarding progress and value

Now that your initiative is in full swing, continue to champion your project – remember you were the first one!


Please feel free to post your comments or questions here.  We look forward to and welcome any and all discussions on this topic!

Our next HRL Lunch Break is Thursday, August 18th – same time – 1:15 – 1:45 and we will be talking about HR Economics and the impact the current economic outlook has on you and your organization.

To check out and register for upcoming events, check out our Calendar

If you have any questions or would like the PowerPoint file, please send me a message.  Thanks for reading!


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