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Managing the Local Development Project

document type: article
keywords: development methodology
source: LEADER dossier
last update: 01/96

Managing a project is not just a case of defining and implementing a programme of work. It is a complex process which must frequently be adjusted along the way: it is more a question of strategy than of programming.

This implies the adoption of "strategic project management" techniques, widely used in the world of business but not often found in that of land development. These practices, which have been adopted by many LAGs, relate primarily to two fields:

  • communicating, and managing relations with partners;
  • improving performance through a constant drive for efficiency and effectiveness.
Alertness and attentive observation of all that occurs in the surrounding environment are vital. It is not enough to rely on the personal abilities of the project leaders; where appropriate, know-how should be inculcated through training.

3.1 Negotiation and communication

a) Negotiation

If they are to attain their objectives, managers of LAGs must be ready to negotiate continually with their many partners. To do this successfully, they need a certain amount of professionalism.

Tried and tested negotiating techniques exist. Some people have natural negotiating skills; others can acquire them through use of these techniques.

Negotiation is often compared to a game. For it to be successful, no one should lose face and everyone should gain something: it is a game where everyone wins.

The art of negotiating lies in drawing one's partners closer to one's own position, by demonstrating to them that it is in their interest. It is therefore necessary to:

  • know the positions and interests of those present,
  • define one's own objectives,
  • make a distinction between points which are essential - and on which no compromises can be made - and those which are secondary and on which compromises can be accepted,
  • build up convincing arguments,
  • create a good climate for negotiations, endeavouring at all times to reach a successful conclusion,
  • avoid an aggressive or disparaging attitude.
Simulation and role-playing exercises can help you to prepare for difficult negotiations, and to anticipate your partners' likely reactions.

b) Communication

A great deal of attention must be focused on communication, which is one of the keys to successful project management. It requires a professional approach and steps should be taken to ensure that the necessary skills exist within the LAG.

Too many businesses confuse communication with the simple dissemination of information, promotion and advertising. Communication consists of putting across a strong message that can effectively contribute to the project's success.

Good internal communication improves the operation of the LAG and the quality of relations both within the team and with partners. It is vital for keeping motivation high.

Good external communication gives the LAG a higher profile and generates greater involvement within the local community. It builds confidence among the project's beneficiaries and local people in general; it strengthens links between the LAG and other organisations; and it promotes understanding by the maximum number of people of the aims the LAG is pursuing and the actions it is carrying out.

Last but not least, communication is a two-way process, also requiring attention and response to feedback.

Prerequisites for good communication:

  • know what you want to say. Make sure your messages are relevant, have a strong information content and contain convincing arguments which support your aims;
  • define exactly whom each message is targeted at;
  • for each target group, aim or message, choose the communication medium carefully (written, spoken, audiovisual...);
  • draw up a schedule of communication activities, noting peak periods;
  • meticulously evaluate the effectiveness of each message, so that you can improve your strategy. Ask for feedback from the target groups. Evaluate the cost effectiveness of your communication expenditure;
  • to sum up, rather than treating your communication activities as a simple matter of organisation, define and apply a communication strategy, the effects of which can be measured.

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