Stakeholders are key people involved in a project. They have an interest in the execution of the project, provide approval and resources, and have a stake in the project outcome. They may not have an official role on the project but these are the people that will ultimately deem the project a success or failure. If you don’t get the support you need from the key stakeholders, you run a significant risk of the project falling apart. To be a successful project manager you must be able to work with your stakeholders. So, here are a few simple rules you can follow when dealing with stakeholders.
- Identify all the stakeholders. This is critical to your peace of mind as the project manager and ultimately to the success of the project. You need to take the time at the very beginning of the project to identify all possible stakeholders as failure to do so can result in unknown stakeholders with disruptive agendas joining after the project starts.
- Ensure all the stakeholders agree on the project’s deliverables and what their roles are. It is important that you have a shared vision for the project and full agreement on the project objectives and deliverables, as well as the various roles people will play. Before the project begins, it’s very important to establish rules of engagement that define people’s functions, and whether they are leaders or followers and, you need to agree on all of the requirements at the start of project. Failure to do this may result in possible delays, cost overruns and project failure.
- Get consensus on how to handle changes to the project. In most projects, change is inevitable and the more complex the project then more than likely there will be changes. It is vital to the success of a project that all project stakeholders agree on how to handle changes.
- Practice Good Communication. Again this is something that needs to be defined at the start of the project. The project team must determine the frequency of communication and what it will include. Typically, communication should be concise and focus on progress and value. Communication should be meaningful to all stakeholders.
- Keep the project vision visible. Keeping the project vision accessible allows everyone to stay focused on what’s important. This helps reduce the chance of scope creep.
- Engage stakeholders throughout the process. Experts emphasise that is important to engage stakeholders in problem-solving, reviewing new requirements, and creating lists of lessons-learned. Stakeholders need to feel involved and the more involved and engaged they are with the project then the less likely it will be that they respond negatively or aggressively to project changes or scope creep for example.
- Agree on what “done” is. This sounds like a very basic premise and you are probably wondering why I would mention it however, Stakeholders need to agree what done looks like, If they don’t, the project may easily get off track – again it is important to ensure there are few if any assumptions made. Everyone needs to be on the same page and agreeing on what done is perhaps also the basis of this.
- Finally, don’t forget to empathise with your stakeholders. Your ability to put yourself in another’s shoes can be crucial to the success or failure of a project. Don’t limit your analysis of the project to people’s interest and influence. Identify what their goals are, what context they bring with them, and relate to how they perceive the project will impact them.