In the media

Q & A with Ruth Ofori-Danso

Association for Project Management

08 September 2021

This article was first published in Association for Project Management

Ruth Ofori-Danso will be hosting a live session at APM’s Think Differently conference on Thursday 23 September, 11am, with ‘project stakeholders’ as its theme.

Ruth’s session, ‘How to manage stakeholders through change in uncertain environments’, will provide useful tools and advice for project professionals on how to keep stakeholders engaged through change projects in ever-changing environments.

Ruth has a wealth of experience in Change Management and a passion for diversity and inclusion, which has driven her to organise several events around this theme, leading to stimulating discussions and increased engagement across organisations. 

Here, Ruth speaks to APM about her role at PA Consulting and her session at Think Differently which delegates will access virtually on 23 September. Think Differently takes place from 20 – 24 September.

What do you enjoy about supporting your clients in the change management process?

My highlight is when we give them the confidence to innovate and spark an idea that may not have been previously considered. It affirms why we have been called in – and is also an indication that I am supporting the client successfully and helping them achieve their desired state.

Can you provide a few examples of the clients you have supported?

The clients I tend to work with are from the public sector or the third sector (charity sector). I have worked with a range of government departments.

What are the main skills required to work in a change consultancy role?

There are many skills that are needed to work in a change consultancy role but the three I have found most valuable are:

  • Interpersonal skills – working with ever changing clients, stakeholders, and teams, I have realised the importance of establishing relationships with people and getting to know them beyond the surface level. It’s essential to understand their way of thinking, which in turn helps me better support them in delivering their change goals.
  • Flexibility – projects tend to be fast paced and fluid, which is to be expected with the nature of the change projects we get involved in. What has been useful is staying open minded and being knowledgeable about when things change and why. If you know what has caused the change and why, you will know how to respond.  
  • Patience – when everyone else around you is concerned by the problem, I have noticed what a difference it makes to have a calming presence. It links with flexibility because you need to be able to adapt when something suddenly changes – it’s just better to be calm when it’s happening.

What are the key success factors for stakeholders understanding a case for change in a project? 

The key success factors that I have noticed are:

  • Clarity – stakeholders want to understand the change they are committing to so they can internalise the message and cascade to others.
  • Communication – stakeholders want to be communicated with and to. It is essential they are part of the conversation.
  • Consequences – stakeholders are keen to know what the outcome of the change is going to be and how it will positively (and negatively, if any) impact their business.

What can delegates expect to learn by joining your session at Think Differently?

I am really excited for the session. I am hoping to share some new insights and approaches to engaging with clients that may not have been previous considered. The session will be about using emotions to engage and communicate with stakeholders. This is a creative approach to genuine engagement with change.

How has the pandemic impacted your clients’ main projects and the way they are managed?

It has been much busier, with a lot more uncertainty around projects. Working with clients through the pandemic has been a lesson in agility and pivoting. It was uncomfortable at first, as you would expect. But when you trust the process and understand where you need to get to, it can have stunning results.

Why is it important to have diversity within project management communities? 

Diversity of thought is so important when working in teams. If Rebel Ideas (by Matthew Syed) has taught me anything, it is that diversity of thought makes for better teams and therefore better solutions. When people come together with different experience and from different backgrounds, it allows synergy and dynamism, giving birth to ideas that are more ingenious.

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