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06 March 2013

The Lobbyist on the Project Management Team

You are the project manager in an aircraft manufacturing company developing a new range of supersonic fighter planes. Since government approval and involvement are essential, you hire a lobbying firm to get government support to prevent unnecessary changes in your project. Which process is this an example of? (Source unknown)
While aircraft manufacturers conduct some research into designs and materials that they can incorporate into new aircraft, governments usually sponsor development of fighter jets.
Scope creep happens in almost all defense projects.
For example: 
  • The Defense Department wants the aircraft to provide certain capabilities for the Air Force.
  • Then the Navy wants compromises in the design so the jets can take off from carriers.
  • The Army and Marines add their particular use cases.
  • Allies want introperability with their systems.
  • Later, one politician wants to cut costs,
  • another wants the aircraft to use inadequate landing gear designed by the manufacturer in his home town,
  • and over 600 politicians and thousands of bureacrats want to influence the project.
  • Meanwhile, competitors and the nation's adversaries develop new technologies to which the designers must respond.
  • And one of the political parties, along with the press, begin mocking your aircraft by calling it an Imperial Tie Fighter.
If you let it, the politics will multiply the cost twentyfold, drag out the schedule an extra 15 years, and make your company a laughingstock. By the time of the first production run, the aircraft will already be obsolete.
The same sort of changes can happen in any project. One way to control the risk of scope change is to refuse to make changes, but too little flexibility can create customer dissatifaction and cost you future business.
For a better way to reduce the risk of scope creep, maintain close personal relationships with the stakeholders, keep them informed of the costs of changes, and negotiate agreements that best serve the business case.
The PM cannot always do this, so the company hires a lobbyist with exceptional people skills and knowledge of the bureacratic systems. The lobbyist uses various methods to convince the politicians and bureaucrats to resist tinkering with the project requirements.
In process terms, hiring a lobbyist does not proceed from the Project Communications Management processes. Lobbying does not contribute directly to producing the product or providing a service. A first pass through the Identify Stakeholders and Plan Communications processes would assume everything goes as planned and would focus on required reporting and coordination. The lobbyist's job goes far beyond that.
If the team identifies scope creep as a risk, they make a note to consider it later when they follow the Identify Risks process. They would, at that time, add recruiting a lobbyist to the Risk Management Plan portion of the integrated Project Management Plan.
Don't forget that, as a member of the project team, the lobbyist becomes a stakeholder. For example, the team must add the lobbyist's tasks to the WBS and estimated costs during the next iteration of project planning. They must also consider the lobbyist's information needs during the next iteration of the Project Communications Management processes.

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