Stakeholder management is one of the knowledge areas of project management as per PMI’s PMBOK guide. Success or failure in engaging stakeholders can essentially make or break a project. Every project has to be completed by fulfilling the expectations and needs of all the stakeholders. During a project, the project manager and the project team will need timely support and cooperation of all the stakeholders to make it successful.
Stakeholders are people or groups or organizations, who are directly involved in a project, who are positively or negatively impacted by the outcome of the project, or who can impact the project with their power and money.
While effective stakeholder engagement will require application of interpersonal and communication skills, it also will require developing well planned strategy to engage all the stakeholders in the most productive manner to gain their support, which will be beneficial for the project. Stakeholder engagement efforts will be on-going consistent efforts through the project life cycle.
Project stakeholder management processes include the following 4 processes:
Identify stakeholders – All project stakeholders must be identified in a very comprehensive manner. A new document called “stakeholder register” can be prepared with the details of all the identified stakeholders. Once the list of stakeholders is prepared, it will be important to prioritize them. Stakeholder prioritization can be done by doing a thorough stakeholder analysis.
Stakeholder analysis is done using either a grid method or salience model. The grid method uses two parameters about the stakeholders to analyse and create a grid. One of the most popular grids used is a “power-interest” grid. In this grid, every stakeholder will be judged based on their power and interest towards the project. Accordingly all the stakeholders will be segregated into different quadrants of “high power – high interest”, “high power – low interest”, “low power – high interest”, “low power – low interest” . This technique helps in putting the stakeholders at the right places so that appropriate strategies for each of them or each group can be worked out.
Salience model is also used in some cases for conducting stakeholder analysis. Salience model uses three parameters about each stakeholder to decide their position. The tree parameters used are “power”, “urgency” and “legitimacy” of each stakeholder towards the project.
Below are examples of a grid analysis and salience model analysis.
Plan stakeholder engagement – Once the stakeholders are identified and prioritized based on their power and interest, it will be time to develop appropriate management strategies for each of them. A stakeholder engagement plan is developed. The stakeholder engagement plan includes another round of analysis of stakeholders to study their “current” position of engagement and the “desired” position of engagement which will be beneficial for the project.
A stakeholder engagement assessment matrix is prepared. Generally the stakeholders may fall in one of the five levels of engagement, namely, “Unaware”, “Resistant”, “Neutral”, “Supportive”, and “Leading”. It is important to see the current levels of engagement of each stakeholder and ensure that they all become supportive towards the project. This analysis helps in determining the exact steps and actions to be taken so that all stakeholders can be moved to their “desired” of engagement.
Manage stakeholder engagement – Once appropriate stakeholder engagement strategies are developed, then the project manager and project team will start engaging with stakeholders with the intention of understanding their perspective towards project and seeking their support for successful completion of the project. Continuous and positive engagement and involvement of stakeholders is critical to project success. The project manager uses all the interpersonal and communication skills, social and cultural skills in this effort to engage the stakeholders.
Monitor stakeholder engagement – It is important to keep assessing the actual stakeholder engagement and determine if that is as per required engagement level, if not the team will have to adjust some of the strategies so as to improve stakeholder engagement in the desired direction.
The above provides a structured approach to effectively engage and involve stakeholders. It has been often found that projects fail because of lack of appropriate and continuous stakeholder engagement. The project manager’s prime responsibility includes knowing the stakeholders, knowing their needs and expectations well and taking all of them together for ensuring project success. Getting a project management professional PMP course aids you in achieving that goal.
It is important to note that stakeholder identification, developing strategies for effectively engaging them, and actually engaging with them will be a continuous on-going effort throughout the project life cycle.
If there is a visible skill gap, it is necessary to provide appropriate employee training.
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