PM Essence
Impact of organization culture and stakeholders 
                                         influence on a project in an NGO

- Avinash Rao, IT CONSUTLANT

Identifying stakeholders and understanding the organization culture is one of the first activities performed before any project kicks-off. As we are aware, stakeholder's impact and influence on the project is much higher in the initial stages and reduces gradually as the project progresses. So, how different are stakeholders and culture in a nonprofit organization when compared to an established corporate
company?
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Most companies with an established organization structure have hierarchical arrangement of lines of authority, communications, rights and determines how roles, power and responsibilities are assigned. It controls how information flows between different levels of management. Whereas, the voluntary sector has a philanthropic side to it, thus making it difficult for corporate like professionalism or profitdriven accountability standards. The stakeholders in an NGO seem to have a stronger influence on the project than observed in a wellstructured organization.

I believe it is the nature of work that actually results or drives the structure of any organization.

Typically, the motive of NGO's is community service performed by volunteers from all walks of life. Enforcing a structure or a process in such an atmosphere is a daunting task. On the contrary, it is much easier in companies and even employees realize the importance of organization's culture and policies.

Envisage managing an enterprise software project for an NGO and how would you go about your project? Here's how I did it for one of the largest nonprofit, non-government organization in the world. As a project manager, I was bestowed with a responsibility of designing and delivering online ERP software to suit the needs of over 10,000 users.

It was indeed a satisfying experience but it didn't come easy. NGO's follow an open culture implying many having an influence in decision making. Despite taking into confidence the 'key stakeholders', the culture doesn't restrict the entrant of new ones. Imagine each volunteer contributing to the 'scope' and providing feedback after each release?

When processes, hierarchy, authority or structure fails, one is left with no choice than to rely on 'power', not political, but 'soft power', referred to as interpersonal skills. The ability to connect and persuade people plays a crucial role in assessing the influence & impact of stakeholders in project success. The following helped me resolve issues with stakeholder management.

Regular face to face meetings with demanding stakeholders.
• Don't hesitate to meet or speak with new or demanding stakeholders. Developing a cordial relationship will add to project success and inturn enhance our own skills.

Follow-up meetings with emails and/or updates until the resolution.

Be honest and truthful.
• Dealing with people is inevitable and as project managers we are always watched or looked upon as responsible problem solvers.
• Never promise something that you don't believe you can accomplish.
• To communicate thoughts, feelings, and opinions you need to choose words that are direct, honest, appropriate, and respectful. If you are assertive, choose assertive words carefully. This comes by practice and awareness.

Develop and maintain a professional work environment at all times. Never compromise on professional ethics because you are working for an NGO.

• Committed entirely to the project.
    § Being punctual, disciplined and professional yet friendly.
    § Respect the valuable time of others.
• A professional is responsible and accountable.
    § Don't shy away from taking responsibility of the project. I did this which increased confidence and credibility in the entire organization.
    § Accept and embrace failures openly. Don't be afraid of getting embarrassed as the mindset becomes a barrier for most achievers. Ex: Accepting & acknowledging missing schedule deadline) OPENLY.

• Be persistent in enforcing project processes throughout the project life cycle.
 §Project managers should be persistent and not hesitate to enforce processes put in place to those who are reluctant to follow them. Doing this will indicate that you are serious about the way  you want to handle your project. Above all, follow the process ourselves no matter what!

My six mantras to project success! Effort, commitment, perseverance, persistence, patience and smile

• Nothing can be achieved without Effort and I believe this is the starting point.
• Be Committed. Performing an activity or a task willingly has proven to be more effective than doing it unwillingly Ex: Commitment to self-learning and enhancing one's skills.

§Committed to maintaining good health – morning jog, exercises and meditation.
• Perseverance – Continuous effort, diligence may be required to complete an activity
• Persistence – Endurance and grit to complete the project.
• Patience – Maintain calmness and display maturity & willingness to endure. One's capacity to endure and being patient without getting angry or upset is a sign of a true leader.
• Smiling is a great way to make yourself stand out. Smiling makes you and others feel good! It can help you see things in a more positive light so smile often.

Lastly, enjoy working in your project! Being friendly builds relationships. It enhances any personal connection and turns an acquaintance or a colleague into something more meaningful. It helps ease stress in tense situations. People are often happier to make more of an effort and learning happens naturally in a friendly atmosphere.

Celebrate project success happily!