As you are well aware, every project stakeholder (project sponsor, project leader, team member, employee, project manager and shareholder) is different and has a vested interest in the outcome of the projects. Are we doing things correctly to address these expectations or will we continue to have gaps?
The following eight aspects will help you create a good stakeholder management experience that results in successful project outcomes.
1. Setting the context, objective and expectations—priority number one.
Project kick-off meetings are exciting and everyone leaves energized—but that energy often wanes. While we religiously follow the kick-off meeting for the project assigned, it takes more than simply a meeting for the context, objectives and expectation to sink in. It is worthwhile to have the context, objectives and expectations as your basis for all the discussions of project meeting. As we reinforce them, they become a part of employee internalization and then act as a magnetic compass to shape desirable behavior.
When considering your project stakeholders and your expectations for them, remember every stakeholder is different. Some are looking for a learning experience, some for a challenging task and some are hoping for better networking opportunities. Encourage your stakeholders by listing the benefits of the project to gain the necessary commitment and interest among stakeholders (employees and others).
Courtesy of Oxford Creativity
2. Understand the background, experience and attitude of stakeholders
This is a key aspect for every PM to understand the stakeholders better. This is by no means an easy task. There is a huge amount of homework and data to be collected; but in the end it is worth the effort. In the end you can deal better with the respective stakeholders because you have background information and can frame appropriate responses.
3. Everybody wants to be a part of the winning team
Stakeholders play diversified roles like sponsor, project leader, team member depending on the project. But one truth remains; they have an earnest desire to be part of a winning project. So as a PM, it is your responsibility to create the mental picture of how important this project is for the organization and your customers. Assure the stakeholders that they have been hand-picked based on their expertise and experience, and there is no doubt that this creates a winning combination. This makes those involved feel empowered and creates a sense of true belonging to the outcome of the project.
4. The power and influence matrix is only the beginning
We have been conditioned to start the stakeholder management exercise by developing a power vs. influence matrix to determine the necessary people to be satisfied for project outcomes. While this is a good start, it does not address the fundamental aspect of emotional disturbance. Discounting people because they neither have power nor influence only makes the situation worse. Remember, even when the numbers add up – a silent revolt or non-cooperation can break a smoothly running project.
5. Communication is key
As you know, 90 percent of projects fail miserably due to ineffective communication among the project team and stakeholders.
I have seen more vocal shareholders while some prefer not to disclose anything during a meeting. With this in mind, the communication strategy should have different channels and methods to understand, what each stakeholder means at a deeper level. More often, this deeper understanding comes through informal coffee talks and personal rapport. While co-location is a boon, most of the time we need to deal virtually with others and so adopt one-on-one calls to personalize the connection. The tone of the communication has to be just right to convey the message without being dictatorial.
6. Recognize stakeholder suggestions
Acknowledging stakeholders for valuable insights and recommendations is important to successful project outcomes: It sets the tone for people to share and contribute to the success of the project It brings in the concept of collective ownership as a team to make it a success.
In my experience, the biggest insights and recommendations have helped me do Risk Management effectively and be better prepared to steer projects successfully.
7. Be open and solicit help
Projects irrespective of deal size and magnitude can be demanding. All projects might need a lot of support and cooperation from stakeholders to turn the course into the right direction. The best way to approach this is to be open to all stakeholders and say, "We have a problem and I need all your support and suggestions to overcome.” When you give people the freedom to voice for a cause, they participate actively and are willing to take on additional responsibilities.
8. Trust and commitment makes it happen!
Experience shows that the most complex projects have been successful because of the commitment of stakeholders and their trust in the project leadership. This is a sign of transcending the boundaries and making things happen against all odds. For this to happen, the whole project environment must facilitate open and honest communication without a "blame-game”. If something is not working, it is recommended to condemn the act—not the person—and help them overcome the obstacles. When the PM starts fostering an environment of collective team work and complements, it helps build trust and commitment for winning big!
I would love to hear about your experience with project management and stakeholder involvement. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.