The Role of Empathy Within Project Management
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
Empathy: “ The ability to understand and share the feelings of another “.
The traditional Project Management Competence Framework seeks to establish a set of technical and personal competencies that are thought to be highly valued in this role. It includes competencies such as being professional, communicating, leading, managing, effective and having good cognitive skills.
However, we understand from our years of experience and testing through our research that a key personal requirement that will add value to your next project or program is the ability to apply and demonstrate “empathy”.
Empathy is defined as one’s “ability to understand and share the feelings of another”, so why do we think this is important? In its simplest form, a project is a vehicle for people to deliver valued change. So, the value equation starts with understanding the stakeholders and identifying what they most value.
This sounds simple, however we know that complex environments create competing demands that often overlay one another and if decisions are made based on one stakeholder viewpoint this may create a knock-on or cascading effect on others, leading to project failure.
So, it is necessary for the Project Manager to be able to communicate an agreed, measurable set of outcomes and then have them view this through a lens of empathy (understand and share the feelings of another) to determine the best value that leads to the goal of the collective group.
How can this be done?
Establishing a stakeholder engagement plan that identifies project beneficiary groups with appropriate representation
Agreeing with key stakeholders the values to be achieved for project success and identifying methods of measuring (success criteria)
Sharing and communicating stakeholders’ risk and impact in relation to the success criteria
Regularly monitoring progress, risks and changes to the environment with the stakeholders to identify corrective actions or changes to the agreed success criteria