5 December 2008

Missing Org Charts

It's been bugging me for a while how hard it is when you get to a new client organiation to find out who does what.

Organisational charts seem to be getting more and more abstract and high level.  Maybe it is one of those business assets where it isn't that easy to show the payoff.  For me, as a wandering project person, there is a real and tangible problem I face:
  • Who do I need to consult with?  
  • Who are the stakeholders to this project?
It's not always easy to discover them, and some of them won't come out and let you know who they are until the 11th hour.

As always there are techniques.

One method is to create your personal organisational chart and start with your immediate surroundings.  Grab one of the full timers/old hands on your team or in your physical vacinity and get them to put up a draft model on the white board.

Then get a copy of it into your notebook and walk around and visit the people on it at their desks.  While you are discussing their expectations of the project team, ask each one of them if there is anyone else to put on your org chart.

It's an okay process - meaning that is is not fool proof.  It still may not generate a complete picture very easily and you can't be sure whether some arm of the organsiation is missing (and everyone has forgotten about them.)

The next step is to investigate the lessons learned log from previous projects. (If you have one.)

Then - run the model by your sponsor and discuss the areas that are likely to present trouble or particular challenges.  One thing to keep an eye out for is business units with conflicting goals or radically different priorities.  An active discussion like this will elicit better results than a simple presentation of what you have discoverred so far.

I hope this helps you discover all your stakeholders easier next time you start up a project.  Maybe it's something to attack this week?

Or maybe you should just turn the office Christmas party into a networking opportuunity and use the event to walk the floor in once concentrated effort.

Disney Org Chart by shadowstorm, CC on Flickr


  1. Craig,

    Let me pass on one of the best ideas I was ever given. David Schmaltz (http://www.pureschmaltz.com/) gave me the idea. The core intelligence is his, the fluffy and probably meaningless expansion is mine.

    As soon as you've worked out the working contracts and goals you have with your sponsor or the project sponsor, before you discuss anything else, sit down with the person and construct a project environment chart.

    The project environment chart identifies all the people not on the project team who have an interest/influence on the project. There are a couple groups of people you particularly want to identify, in order of importance:

    1. Who are the people likely to oppose the project? (if you're feeling really gutsy, ask why)
    2. Who are the people likely to want to see the project succeed.
    3. Who are the people whose help you'll need to make the project succeed?

    Knowing the political landscape and the people in that landscape maybe as important as what has to be done on the project.

    Org charts seem to be out of favor possibly because they don't contain this perspective.

    Hopefully this helps your projects and opens effective discussions with your sponsor.


  2. I am with you on mapping the teritory rather than just the organiosaiton - org charts are a quick plac to start, but incomplete.