One of the most critical aspects of project management is doing what’s necessary to develop and control relationships with all individuals that the project impacts. In this article, you will learn techniques for identifying stakeholders, analyzing their influence on the project, and developing strategies to communicate, set boundaries, and manage competing expectations.
By successfully managing your stakeholders, you will be better able to keep a lid on scope creep, ensure project requirements are aligned, understand tolerance for risk, and mitigate issues that would otherwise delay the project. Good stakeholder management is a testimony to your influence in an organization, and a key component to a healthy project environment.
As the project manager for a coveted account, you are excited about the opportunity of a new project but anxious for a good outcome. The team is assembled and you have every confidence that they will help you successfully meet and exceed the client’s expectations.
You’ve been here before and you know that even the best-laid plans can quickly go awry. When this happens you need to regain control fast before your team loses motivation.
By properly managing the stakeholders’ expectations from the outset, the chances for a smoother journey are much greater. Here are 8 tips for PMPs to help keep the stakeholders calm and reassured throughout the project, and also at the end, take a look at some great PDU courses for PMPs that can help you build your leadership and project management skills. Boost your PMP exam preparation with hands-on projects while you learn.
1. Identify who the stakeholders are. Obvious? Not always. Most projects will have numerous stakeholders and not necessarily just the most easily recognizable. The PMBOK® Guide defines a stakeholder as: a person, or organization, that is actively involved in the project, has interests that may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project, and may exert influence over the project. That could include senior management in your own company. If the major influencers in your own company are not fully onboard, it could cause dissent in your team.
You will then need to identify the other non-obvious stakeholders of this project. For example, who are the funders? They normally take a quiet back seat behind the movers and shakers, but if you haven’t considered their expectations you might lose an important influencer. Keep brainstorming for other quiet, but important stakeholders.
2. Identify the stakeholder’s preferred method of communication. By using the most effective manner of communication you will help ensure the stakeholder remains content. If you make the mistake of using the wrong method (or non-preferred method) it will cause frustration and lack of confidence. It will show you didn’t listen to their initial direction.
3. Keep stakeholders engaged throughout the process with timely updates. Ask the right questions, of the right people, at the beginning, and throughout the project.
4. Accurately map expectations. Be crystal clear on the expectations from the stakeholder’s point of view. Ask them how they will measure success of the project. Inevitably you will discover conflicting definitions of success. Some will consider meeting the final deadline their number one priority. Another might consider end-user functionality of the final product as the most important. How do you manage these conflicts? One way would be to facilitate a meeting of all stakeholders (where practical) and help them come to mutually satisfying agreements.
5. Classify the level of communication for each stakeholder. Understand who requires hand-holding and insists on receiving all details. Who prefers a basic, occasional overview? Who wants daily or weekly communication?
6. Identify which stakeholders will be advocates and which will be road blockers. Map your strategy accordingly.
7. Engage the stakeholders in decision-making. Stroke their egos. You probably have already identified the best course of action, but present your findings in such a way that you leave room for the stakeholders to feel they have been involved in the process.
8. The manner in which the project is accomplished is vitally important, not just delivering on the required specs. Stakeholders will remember the overall mood of the entire process. Their measure of success is not just the finished product, but the way you attained the end goal.
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