Monday, 13 October 2014

Forget Stakeholder Management at your peril

In simple terms Stakeholders are people who want something from your Project, who can positively / negatively affect it's outcome and those that will be affected when it delivers. So you should identify them early, work out which ones need more engagement and then start managing them, an activity which will continue until Project close down.

Identify, Understand and Manage your Project Stakeholders

Your most important Stakeholder(s) is your Sponsor and Project Board members

I have previously written about the need to find a Project Sponsor if you haven't been given one. The Sponsor can be augmented by other roles to form the Project Board (e.g. Senior User, Senior Supplier etc). These are your most important Stakeholders as they own the Project, set the objectives, authorise key deliverables (products) and the Sponsor typically needs to deliver the Benefit Case.

1 - IDENTIFY - Brainstorm your Stakeholders

Your first step in Stakeholder Management is identifying who your Stakeholders are! So brainstorm, answering the questions:
  • who will be affected by the Project (positively or negatively)?
  • who should or might want to influence the Project?
  • who will be interested in a successful or unsuccessful outcome?
Your list may include departments in your organisation, customers, various senior managers, customers (internal / external / new / existing), suppliers, public, unions, press etc. Don't forget the Project team, they are Stakeholders too!

2 - SEGMENT - Segment the identified Stakeholders

Having produced your Register of Stakeholders, work through the list segmenting them. This may need some subsequent analysis:
  • who should be consulted about the Project requirements?
  • how much interest do they really have?
  • type of interest - financial, emotional etc? 
  • will their job role be affected, may they lose their job?
  • how much power and ability to influence?
Then map out so you decide what management strategy to use for each stakeholder.
Project Stakeholder Map

3 - UNDERSTAND - Better Understand your Stakeholders

So you have done your initial segmentation, you will probably need to do some more digging to better understand them, especially those in the "Manage Actively" and "Keep Satisfied" segments of your map. I would also do some further analysis of the "Keep Eye On" segment as well. You can do some research but why not be open and have a one to one discussion with them?

Questions to think about include:
  • Are they advocates or opponents?
  • If an opponent, is there a possibility of winning them over, if not to a fully positive position, at least to a neutral stance?
  • If you can't win an opponent over, how best to manage their opposition? 
  • What is their motivation?
  • What is the best way of communicating with them and are there certain communication techniques to avoid? (some stakeholders seem to react badly to emails where as a verbal update can work better) 
After understanding more, update their position within your map accordingly. 

In practical terms I record Stakeholders in an Excel log, here are extracts from the Stakeholder Log and the Communication Log


Project Stakeholder Log


Project Communications Log

4 - MANAGE - Implement your Management Strategy

You should now implement your management strategy per Stakeholder group and tailored for individuals as assessed in the UNDERSTAND step. Keep active monitoring as you move through the Project life-cycle.

Dealing with "difficult" Stakeholders

A bit like the cartoon, some Stakeholders can be difficult angry characters or just naturally obstructive (even when assessed as being neutral to the project aims)! Maybe organisational politics are evident. There is no silver bullet solution but approaches I adopt are:
  • always remain professional, don't be angry back and attack the project point of discussion not the person
  • avoid email to continue such debates even if it started on email, it always seems to make things worse. So go and see the person if possible else pick up the phone and speak 1-2-1
  • use the tools at your disposal - no, you PMs on Construction sites, don't pick up a hammer! I'm talking about using your Project Management toolbox and making statements like "I will need to raise a risk off the back of this conversation", "I need to escalate this risk to my Project Board", "This represents a formal Project issue which will be reported to the Project Board" etc
  • can you get around your problem child? e.g. go up the line and start the discussion afresh and still achieve the same goal
  • you may need to seek assistance from the Sponsor and Project Board members

Conclusion

Your Project Stakeholders should be analysed and managed via strategies devised in line with their segment within the Stakeholder Map. Your most important Stakeholders are usually your Sponsor and Project Board. Ignoring this activity can put your Project at peril!!

2 comments:

A stakeholder therefore is anybody who has a claim, stake or vested interest in the issue at hand, or in an organisation, or in his or her relationship with a product, service or brand.
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Stakeholder Engagement entails the creation of effective linkages between the management of your stakeholders and your business objectives in order to achieve cumulative benefits.
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