Don’t wait until kick-off to obtain buy-in for your project

A project manager asked: In order to obtain buy-in from your Project Stakeholders at Kick-off, what are some key points to communicate or clear up front?

This is one of the fatal mistakes project managers make.

If you wait until the kick-off for stakeholders to give their buy-in for the project, it is way too late.

Buy-in is a prerequisite to the project kick-off. By the time the project is kicked off, there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind as to why we are doing the project.

You always need a mandate to kick-off the project. There needs to be much leg work done in advance to build the business case for the project before it starts. The business case must address, among other things, what problems the organization is trying to solve, what other options were considered, and why the envisioned solution or approach was chosen.

During the formulation of this business case, the organization can deliberate, debate, and argue about the what, the why, the how, and all the differences that need to be resolved. But once all is said and done, a business case document is approved. That becomes your mandate. You no longer need to get buy-in after that. The organization has made a decision to proceed with the project.

I understand if your organization does not at the moment have a governance process that requires a business case to be made and approved before a project is initiated. In this case, what you need to do first is start a mini-phase or mini-project to create that business case. You will need to spend the time needed to build the buy-in first. Then you can formally kick-off the real project. Not doing this heavy-lifting before the project starts only means that you will have to do it during the project. Not something I recommend.

Understand that when you lead the development of the business case, it is really not your job to obtain the needed buy-in. That is the job of the project sponsor or economical stakeholder. Your job is only to facilitate the “meeting of the minds” so to speak.

In a nutshell, the project kick-off is only to formalize the initiation of the project not to get stakeholder buy-in. Never kick-off a project without an already approved business case.

How to Break into Project Management-Part 2

In this second installment in this series on how to break into project management, Bruce Harpham, the author of Project Management Hacks, shows us how to tun a process into a project. Getting your start in project management doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need a clear strategy to get started. Learning your way…

ERP Projects: The Complete Survival Manual-Part 1

Managing your first ERP project is the ultimate challenge you will face in your career as a project manager. In this video series, I will share with you practical strategies, tips, and technique so you are prepared to manage these complex projects effectively:   Chapter 1: Chapter 2: Chapter 3: Chapter 4:

Effect of Culture on Innovation – A Conversation with Vivek Wadhwa

From tech entrepreneur to business owner, from accomplished academic to widely published writer, Vivek Wadhwa is an agent of innovation and disruption. His research, which has been supported by several grants from the Kauffman Foundation and by the Sloan Foundation, has been cited in thousands of national and international media outlets since 2007 and has…

5 Great Open Source Project Management Platforms

Open-source has been gaining momentum for some time now. It seems that every year, more companies have been adopting open-source solutions to meet their business objectives. In fact, the results of the 2013 Future of Open Source Survey revealed that 62 percent of respondents believe that more than 50 percent of purchased software will be…

How to be a happy project manager – Part 4

  This post is brought to you by ProjectTMA – Tailored Microsoft Project training and MS project related services to help you develop robust schedules which meet your unique business goals.   Cloud Computing, Bring Your Own Device, Social Media, Big Data. With all the new and changing technologies we must learn about and manage…

How to Compare Project Management Software

Researching different software solutions and comparing them side-by-side on multiple criteria can be a daunting task. I came across a great website that makes it easier for project managers and their teams to research different solutions, compare apples-to-apples, and present finding in an easy to evaluate format. Diego Guadarrama, Senior Product Associate at, shows…

Be Prepared: Setting the Stage for a Successful Vendor Management System Implementation

KEY TAKEAWAYS A VMS implementation is only as clean as the data. The way you collect and organize your data can make or break your install. In order for an implementation to be successful, it may need to go in stages. Take full ownership of the elements assigned to your internal team. When your organization…

Assertiveness for Women Project Managers

Naomi shares her insights on why assertiveness is vital for women project managers for delivering successful projects, getting what they want, and commanding respect. Handling high-stakes project situations without seeming either shy or pushy is a critical skill that every project manager must develop. I had the pleasure of talking to Naomi Caietti, a leadership…

Cultural Neuroscience for Global Project Managers

Cultural intelligence, the ability to adapt to new cultural contexts, is becoming an increasingly important skill for project leaders. I recently presented at PMI Global Congress on latest findings from Cultural Neuroscience research and how they can inform the way we develop our cultural intelligence and effectively lead global cross-cultural teams. While at the congress,…