Creativity, Courage, Charisma - What Has It To Do With Management Buy-In?

The KM Singapore 2006 conference is some two months away and I look forward to it for many reasons but one in particular. While most conferences aim for interesting presentations (not that this one doesn’t), what I value most from conferences are the networking and conversations I have with the people who turn up. Interacting with practitioners, experts and expert practitioners has proved to be very valuable for me in the past. Apart from making new acquaintances and swapping ideas, it also helped me when I was a practitioner to find out and gauge the maturity of KM implementations in similar organisations, a kind of “soft benchmarking” technique.

This time the conference has in its programme two forums scheduled for the afternoon which I am glad for, especially the one on “Getting Management Buy-in”. An actKM project, anecdotes are currently being collected via online contributions. It would be quite a treat to hear some of these accounts face-to-face as well, for judging from what I have read so far, the stories can range from the familiar to the almost unbelievable, to the incredibly hilarious.

Another thought I have is that while getting management buy-in is one thing, sustaining it is another challenge in itself. Having been involved in a support role at corporate planning sessions, I have seen situations where Management buy-in for an initiative start to waver, and it then becomes a struggle for project managers and sometimes even their Sponsors to keep the initiative afloat and still on the list of Management priorities. Questions are revisited, projects are stalled while awaiting re-validation, and so on.

Be it a KM initiative, an infrastructure development project or a major event, wavering management buy-in can certainly create doubt and fear in project managers, of whether, when and how things may change and affect their projects. Some project managers have sadly become less imaginative and creative as a result, preferring to stick to safe, tried and tested approaches to implementing their projects. They become ordinary ie. minus the extra. Somehow, I’m beginning to get the notion of the “self-fulfilling” prophecy.

On the other hand, we have to contend that Management does have a right and an obligation to constantly review their priorities for the benefit of the organisation. This therefore calls for a need for project managers to be sensitive to their accountabilities, and therefore change of heart. So, where does does that leave us? What level of rigour could we ourselves take before trying to soak up enough management buy-in for our own initiatives? Do we have the courage to admit and step down when really our projects are not going to be the “bright stars”?

And if we are in the midst of project implementation, and we know how projects can overrun in schedule, scope and resources, do we have the courage to cut our losses from our own projects if they are really not going to give the organisation the original justified returns?

Then, I also wonder if charisma and eloquence matter when getting management buy-in? It may seem like an absurd question but would Management members who are charming articulators and influencers have an edge in getting more of their projects supported at these corporate planning sessions?

I like this topic because I can relate to it with the voice of experience and curiosity. I hope we see a good mix of senior management representatives and project managers at the conference forum (and consultants who are sometimes also impacted by wavering Management buy-in), to explore and understand the various perspectives and dimensions of this topic.

2 Comments so far

Javi Castillo


Your thoughts about charisma and eloquence to get management buy-in makes interesting reading. I think they can have a positive impact in the short term but the effect may evaporate rapidly if the charming offence is not backed by sound and visible commitment. I have recently published a blog about “KM by stealth” and, similarly, I think that indirected approach is effective to make quick wins and inroads in a bottom-up approach, although I feel it is not enough in order to ensure the successful implementation of a KM programme.



Posted on September 12, 2006 at 11:57 PM | Comment permalink

Paolina Martin

Javi, I find KM by stealth is the next best thing one can do if there isn’t enough Management support to do it top-down. It takes a lot more effort in finding consenting partners though and it also becomes hard to make visible the challenges and achievements of the KM unit.

I had used this approach (KM by stealth) some years ago and it was hard for others to see the whole when they were only impacted by the bits and pieces being done here and there.  Of course, beneath it, there was an undisclosed but integrated strategy.

Thanks for your comment.

Posted on September 13, 2006 at 11:55 AM | Comment permalink

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