7 Building relationships across the organisation
7.1 Sharing the project
As we have seen, the execution of a project may depend on the involvement and co-operation of several departments or functions within an organisation. If this is the case, then, for it to succeed, they must be prepared to share ownership of the project, be willing to work together to help the project achieve its objectives and be happy to release adequate resources when appropriate. The project manager and their team therefore have to create and maintain good relationships with all interested parties across the organisation in order to get their support for the project. This may not be a straightforward issue, since each function will have its own priorities and interests; they may be indifferent or even downright hostile to the project. Not surprisingly, the larger the project task, the more difficult the job of maintaining good relationships with all interested parties, especially if the project involves more than one site. This is complicated by the fact that it may not be obvious at the outset who has an interest in a project or even what constitutes the organisation, as the following example illustrates.
An RSPCA project to build Britain's biggest animal welfare complex using public donations of £1.5 million is in turmoil because of a feud involving volunteers.
The Charity Commission has intervened in a dispute between the society's senior officials and volunteers from Glamorgan West and Swansea over construction of a showpiece centre for 40 dogs and 20 cats. Volunteers, who raised £1 million in over 35 years, say the complex, to be built on 75 acres at Penllergaer, near Swansea, is too big and could be built for 30 per cent less. They accuse national officials of intimidating volunteers to get lavish plans agreed – accusations that are strongly denied.
However, after complaints from the national society, the commission has suspended the local volunteers and handed control of the project to Peter Wright, the society's national operations manager. RSPCA officials are planning to subject the volunteers to a disciplinary inquiry.
The branch, however, an independent charity in its own right, is preparing to sue the national RSPCA for negligence, alleging that it gave poor advice and failed to deliver grants on time. Joe Harris, 50, the chairman, said: ‘The committee agreed to these plans, including an administration block the size of a school, because they were told that advice from headquarters was not to be questioned and that, if it was, they could be considered negligent and could lose their homes and businesses.’
The branch collected £1.09 million. It wanted to replace its old Swansea premises. Local members agreed a scheme, which included a headquarters grant of £360,000, but now say they had misgivings about some features, which included an Inglenook fireplace and a mower store worth £39,000. The branch produced more modest proposals which were rejected. It says that by the time it hit financial difficulties the grant agreed by headquarters had not been paid and it was tied to a contract it could not pay.
Peter Davies, the society's director general, said: ‘We just want to see the project completed.’ The administration block would house a shop, education and meeting facilities, and premises for an inspector. ‘It was a farm and we had to buy it all. We need an equine facility and that is part of the long-term plan.’
The RSPCA example demonstrates how a project's success may be jeopardised if all interested parties across the organisation do not share an understanding of its purpose and proposed outcome. It illustrates that, especially in the voluntary sector, it may even be difficult to identify exactly what is the ‘organisation’. It can be equally easy to ignore or sideline certain interest groups within a more conventional organisation too, because they may not have an obvious interest in a project, or even because their interest seems likely to undermine the aims of the project as understood by more powerful interest groups.