Driving Success at the Polls: The Project Management Approach to Politics

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Driving Success at the Polls: The Project Management Approach to Politics

Driving Success at the Polls: The Project Management Approach to Politics
  26 May, 2023   Dr. Preeti Adhav

In 2017, Jacob Frey ran for mayor of Minneapolis against 14 other candidates. He was a relative newcomer to politics, having only been elected to the City Council two years prior. Despite the odds stacked against him, he managed to pull ahead of other seasoned candidates who had been in this game longer. How did he accomplish this? When asked about his strategy after the election victory, he mentioned that his campaign had a very result-oriented approach. He had a strong campaign team that focused on grassroots campaigning, attending community events, door-to-door canvassing, and engaging with voters through social media platforms. Their tireless efforts paid off as Frey secured the mayoral position through the ranked-choice voting system, solidifying his status as the 48th mayor of Minneapolis.

The success stories of political campaigns, whether at the mayoral or presidential level, often stem from the integration of project management principles. Notable figures like Obama and Biden have exemplified the positive outcomes that result from incorporating project management methodologies into political campaigns. Political campaigns can be likened to complex megaprojects, subject to time constraints, financial mandates, defined scopes, resource allocations, and quality benchmarks. Project management, a set of principles and practices, serves as the guiding compass to plan, organize, and execute campaigns with utmost efficiency and timeliness. While political campaigns possess unique nuances, the fundamental tenets of project management remain universally applicable.

Within the realm of political campaigns, project management manifests in orchestrating and coordinating multifaceted activities, including fundraising, event planning, voter outreach, and messaging. By employing project management in political campaigns, teams can operate with heightened efficiency and effectiveness, driving them closer to their goals. This approach involves identifying pivotal campaign objectives, breaking them down into manageable tasks, establishing clear timelines and deadlines, and meticulously monitoring progress. Such structured practices prevent the wastage of valuable resources, maintain adherence to schedules, and enable swift adaptability in response to evolving circumstances.

Returning to the example of the Frey campaign, project management played a vital role in harmonizing the efforts of volunteers and staff members. By breaking down the campaign into actionable tasks, establishing transparent timelines and deadlines, and aligning everyone toward shared objectives, the campaign optimized its resources and achieved unprecedented success in fundraising and voter turnout.

A research study conducted on municipal elections in Israel, encompassing 12 pairs of election campaigns, consistently revealed the advantages of employing project management methodologies over traditional marketing strategies. Rigorous data collection, including in-depth interviews with key stakeholders at various campaign stages, allows for comprehensive comparisons in areas such as budget control, schedule management, risk mitigation, fund distribution, organizational efficiency, and election outcomes. The results unequivocally demonstrated the efficacy of project management principles in political campaigns.

But can project management be successfully implemented in political campaigns within the Indian context? While India's political landscape differs markedly from that of the United States, there is no inherent reason why project management principles cannot be applied to political campaigns in India. As the world's largest democracy, India boasts a dynamic political environment that can benefit from the strategic application of project management. Political parties in India can leverage project management principles to organize and execute well-structured campaigns. However, the distinct characteristics of Indian politics present unique challenges to the implementation of project management principles. Political campaigns in India often encompass large-scale events and rallies, demanding meticulous coordination and substantial resources. Additionally, the hierarchical structure prevalent in Indian political parties may require adjustments to better align with the principles of project management.

In recent years, Indian political parties have begun embracing technology and social media platforms to engage with voters. Though not explicitly acknowledged, many successful campaigns have effectively utilized project management principles. For instance, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) employed project management techniques during the 2014 Indian General Election to streamline their campaign efforts. The campaign team identified key objectives, established clear timelines and deadlines for each task, and diligently monitored progress to ensure adherence to the strategic plan. As a result, they maximized their resources and achieved a historic victory.

It's a safe bet that project management is the go-to blueprint for successful political campaigns, highlighting the significance of key stages such as candidate profiling, supporter identification, and voter mobilisation on Election Day. This underscores the importance of efficient project management practices throughout these stages to achieve favourable results. By integrating project management principles, political parties can enhance their prospects of running successful campaigns and meeting their desired goals.