Stakeholder Management


Posted on 18th October, by JimYoung in Blog. Comments Off on Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder Management is critical to the success of every project in every organisation. By engaging the right people in the right way during your project, you can make a big difference to its success… and even to your career. However, some would say that stakeholder management is like painting a picture with 100 determined people holding the paintbrush.

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As you become more successful in your career, the actions you take and the projects you run will affect more and more people. The more people you affect, the more likely it is that your actions will impact people who have power and influence over your projects. These people could be strong supporters of your work – or they could block it.

Stakeholder Management is an important discipline that successful people use to win support from others. It helps them ensure that their projects succeed where others might fail. However, I have some reservations about the expression ‘Stakeholder Management’.  In particular, ‘management’ insinuates that stakeholders need to be controlled, since left to their own devices they could upset the project.  And ‘stakeholder’ sounds like something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Perhaps an expression like ‘communicating with interested parties’ would be less patronising or paternalist, yet not too touchy-feely, but I’ll stay with the more concise and better known ‘stakeholder management’ expression for this blog item.

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The PMBOK describes a stakeholder as “A person or organisation that is actively involved in the project or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the execution or completion of the project.  A stakeholder may also exert influence over the project and its deliverables.”  So, a stakeholder is someone who can affect the project or is affected by it.  This not only includes clients (owners) and customers (users), but among others also includes you as project manager and those employees and contractors who comprise the project team.

The first step in the process is to identify the key people who have to be won over. You then build their support to help the project succeed.  The benefits of using this stakeholder-based approach are that:

  1. You can use the opinions of the most powerful stakeholders to shape your projects at an early stage. Not only does this make it more likely that they will support you, their input can also improve the quality of your project.
  2. Gaining support from powerful stakeholders can help you to win more resources – this makes it more likely that your projects will be successful.
  3. By communicating with stakeholders early and frequently, you can ensure that they fully understand what you are doing and understand the benefits of the project, which means they can support you actively when necessary.
  4. You can anticipate what people’s reaction to your project may be, and build into your plan the actions that will win their support.

There are some other reasons you undertake stakeholder management, and here are a few of them:

  1. Free help. 
Some stakeholders are incredibly proactive, which means you get access to lots of help for absolutely nothing. You can delegate to your stakeholders and get them involved with different tasks, as long as you have ensured from the beginning that they are happy to be involved in this way and possess the necessary skills. Stakeholders can be an extra part of the team, and if they are willing, you should involve them in this way. Gauge their skill set and interest levels in the project.  For example, if they happen to be experts in budget management, ask them to talk you through it.  Or perhaps they are social media gurus.  Again, tap into this resource and ask them for their involvement. As long as you have clarified terms from the beginning, you can consider them to be an additional part of your team.
  2. Find and reduce risk.  The more active communication you have with your stakeholders, the better your risk management strategy will be. You should also remember that every single person involved in your project has the potential to identify risks that others may not have spotted. The more engaged you are with them, the more likely you are to discover risks and issues that could have an impact on your project.
  3. Project considered successful. 
Regardless of how a project ends, stakeholders who have felt involved and who have received honest communications throughout the project, are much more likely to see the project as successful.
If you want your project to be a success, you have to engage with your stakeholders continually throughout, particularly because this will have an effect on how they feel about the project result.
 Sometimes a project won’t deliver all expected benefits, so managing stakeholder expectations is a way to prepare them for what they will realistically receive.
  4. Closing is easier. 
When you come to the transition phase you will find effective stakeholder management has paid off, allowing for a much easier handover. This is because you are handing the deliverable over to someone who understands what you have been doing.  An engaged stakeholder is much more likely to accept deliverables when they have been involved in the related discussions, adjustment and production of them throughout.

Anyway, the first step is to identify who your project stakeholders are. The next step is to work out their power, influence and interest, so you know where to focus your efforts. You then develop a good understanding of the most important stakeholders so that you know how they are likely to respond, so you can work out how to win their support.  You can record this analysis on a stakeholder map. The steps involved are:

Step 1 – Identify Stakeholders

The first step is to brainstorm who your stakeholders are. As part of this, think of all the people who are affected by your work, who have influence or power over it, or have an interest in its successful or unsuccessful conclusion. The list below shows some of the people or organisations that might be stakeholders in your project:

  1. Project team members
  2. Senior management
  3. Project client (owner)
  4. Project customer (user)
  5. Resource managers
  6. Line managers
  7. Shareholders
  8. Contract partners and subcontractors
  9. Consultants
  10. Suppliers
  11. Lenders
  12. Government departments
  13. Local government
  14. Trade union associations
  15. The public
  16. The local community

Remember that although stakeholders may be both organisations and people, ultimately you must communicate with individuals.  So take care to identify the appropriate individual stakeholders within the stakeholder organisations.

Step 2 – Prioritise Stakeholders

You may now have a long list of people and organisations that are affected by your project. Some of these may have the power either to block or advance the project and some may be interested in what you are doing, while others may not care.  You might now map or classify your stakeholders on a Power versus Interest grid:

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For example, your CEO is likely to have high power and influence over your projects and also high interest. Your family may have high interest, but are unlikely to have much power over your project.  Someone’s position on the grid shows you the actions you should then take:

  1. High power, interested people are those you must fully engage and make the greatest efforts to satisfy.
  2. High power, less interested people require enough attention to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored with your message.  Of course their level of interest could increase as the project proceeds.
  3. Low power, interested people are kept adequately informed, and we talk to them to ensure that no major issues are arising. These people can often be very helpful with the detail of your project.
  4. Low power, less interested people again need to be monitored, but do not bore them with excessive communication.

Step 3 – Understand Stakeholders

You now need to know more about your key stakeholders. You need to know how they are likely to feel about and react to your project. You also need to know how best to engage them in your project and how best to communicate with them.  Some questions, the answers to which can help you understand your stakeholders are:

  1. What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of your project?  Is this interest positive or negative?
  2. What motivates them most of all?
  3. What information do they want from you?
  4. How do they want to receive information from you?
  5. What is the best way of communicating your message to them?
  6. What is their current opinion of your work, and is it based on good information?
  7. Who influences their opinions generally, and who influences their opinion of you?
  8. Should some of these influencers therefore become important stakeholders in their own right?
  9. If they are not likely to be positive, what will win them around to support your project?
  10. If you don’t think you will be able to win them around, how will you manage their opposition?
  11. Who else might be influenced by their opinions and do these people become stakeholders in their own right?

A good way of answering these questions is of course to talk to your stakeholders directly.  People are often quite open about their views, and asking people’s opinions is often the first step in building a successful relationship with them.  They may be flattered that they have been identified and approached early in the process.  Conversely, they may not be so amenable if they are only contacted late in the project when their influence will be diminished.  You will now better understand which stakeholders are expected to be blockers or critics, and which stakeholders are likely to be advocates and supporters or your project.

Step 4 – Communicate with Stakeholders

The next stage is to plan your communication so that you can win them around to support your projects. A table with the following column headings might be useful for this purpose:

  1. Stakeholder name.
  2. Contact details.
  3. Communications approach.
  4. Key interests and issues.
  5. Current status – advocate, supporter, neutral, critic, blocker.
  6. Desired support – high, medium or low.
  7. Desired project role (if any).
  8. Actions, messages and communications needed.

Some points to keep in mind are:

1. Update Information

Based on the Power/Interest Grid you created, enter the stakeholders’ names, their influence and interest in your job or project, and your current assessment of where they stand with respect to it.  Their attitude towards the project could change.

2. Plan Your Approach to Stakeholder Management

The amount of time you should allocate to stakeholder management depends on the size and difficulty of your projects, the time you have available for communication, and the amount of help you need from stakeholders to achieve the results you want.

3. Think Through What You Want From Each Stakeholder

Next, work through your list of stakeholders thinking through the levels of support you want from them and the roles you would like them to play (if any). Think through the actions you would like them to perform. Write this information down in the “Desired Support,” “Desired Project Role,” and “Actions” columns.

4. Identify the Messages You Need to Convey

Next, identify the messages that you need to convey to your stakeholders to persuade them to support you and engage with your projects or goals. Typical messages will show the benefits to the person or organisation of what you are doing, and will focus on key performance drivers like increasing profitability or delivering real improvements.

5. Identify Actions and Communications

Finally, work out what you need to do to win and manage the support of these stakeholders. With the time and resource you have available, identify how you will manage the communication to and the input from your stakeholders.

Focusing on the high-power/high-interest stakeholders first and the low-interest/low-power stakeholders last, devise a practical plan that communicates with people as effectively as possible and that communicates the right amount of information in a way that neither under nor over-communicates.

Think through what you need to do to keep your best supporters engaged and on-board. Work out how to win over or neutralise the opposition of skeptics. Where you need the active support of people who are not currently interested in what you are doing, think about how you can engage them and raise their level of interest.

Also, consider how what you do will affect your stakeholders. Where appropriate, let people know as early as possible of any difficult issues that may arise, and discuss with them how you can minimise or manage any impact.  It is usually a good idea to manage people’s expectations about likely problems as early as possible. This gives them time to think through how to manage issues, and preserves your reputation for reliability.

Once you have prepared this stakeholder communication plan, you need to implement it.  As with all plans, it will be easier to implement if you break it down into a series of small, achievable steps and action these one-by-one. 

Stakeholder Management Exercises 

Here are two questions concerned with stakeholder management.  The questions concern the management of difficult stakeholders:

  1. Managing Opponents. How should we deal with opponents – senior stakeholders and clients who have a lot of power and influence over the project but who are not supportive. Or at least they come across as not being supportive.  They are skeptics. These stakeholders can be unpleasant to deal with because they may make us feel insecure and in doubt about the direction of the project and the things we are doing. Most project managers only interface with them when they have to, but will otherwise avoid them. Why ask for unnecessary trouble?  How should they be managed?
  2. Managing Bad Politicians.  ‘Bad politics’ is when someone works the system to make them look good at the expense of others. Bad politicians are focused on winning at all costs and abusing power systems to impose their will on others. This usually results in win-lose situations that can be highly de-motivating, destructive and dangerous to all involved. Some traits of political players you need to be wary of include:
  1. Self-promoting: they take credit even when they have not earned it.
  2. Manage up: they buddy only with senior power brokers.
  3. Spread gossip and talk badly about others who are not present.
  4. Quickly distance themselves from failure.
  5. Throw bombs into situations and then retreat into the shadows.
  6. Extract information and opinions, without sharing their own.

Suggest some ways to counter these traits and position yourself for success.

Some Answers to Question One: Dealing with Opponents

Here are some observations that may help you deal with those stakeholders who are skeptical about your project:

  1. Understand the root of their skepticism.  When you look at your opponents, consider how they are acting towards you. Are they indifferent, absent and maybe non-committal? Could it be that your project is simply at the bottom of their priority list? If so, what can you do to increase their interest in the project and make them see the benefits and what’s in it for them? How can you take into consideration their other time commitments and make it easier for them to participate? 
If, on the other hand, this isn’t a time management or a prioritisation issue, but a deeper-rooted problem, you have to take a closer look at the emotions and the reasons that drive your opponent’s behavior. What are the underlying needs that they feel are not being met? Could it be that they feel their voice is not being heard and their contributions aren’t being appreciated and that the project isn’t giving them what they were hoping for? Or do they in some way feel threatened by the project and what it will bring about? What can you do to actively engage these people and uncover the reasons for their skepticism? Maybe it is time for you to “walk into the lion’s cage” to find out?
  2. Ask for advice.
 As you walk into the lion’s cage, one of the best ways to address your opponents is to ask them for advice and feedback. This can be a disarming move, which instantly builds trust and opens up the relationship because you show that you care and that you are humble enough to ask for their opinion. Just imagine how they might react if you asked: “I would like to ask for your feedback about the project. I value your opinion on how we can work more effectively and deliver a better product or service to you. Would that be OK?  Are there any aspects (requirements, risks or issues) you feel we have overlooked?  Which other tips and suggestions do you have for how we can improve?”
  3. Sincerely listen to their answer.
 These questions have the potential to work wonders for you – but only if you sincerely mean it and take the time to really listen to the answer and to the meaning behind the words. Leave your negative emotions aside, put your tongue on neutral and just listen. If you walk into a meeting that aims to build trust, with mistrust, you will undermine the process. We are often not aware of the emotions we bring to a situation ourselves – and neither is the other person – but subconsciously it always comes across. If you fundamentally don’t trust or respect the person you are interfacing with, they will detect it.
  4. Your emotions affect your relationships.
 Take a moment to reflect on what your true feelings are towards some of the people with whom you have a tense relationship. Do you look up to them, down on them, do you fear them or do you think they are laughable? Do you unintentionally exclude them from emails and meetings, or do you tend to speak badly about them to other people? Have a long and hard look at the emotions and attitudes you hold, as they affect your interactions with people even if you would like them not to.

It is easy to fall into the trap of blaming someone else for a poor interpersonal relationship and for being skeptical towards us. But the truth is that we, as project managers, share the responsibility for creating a harmonious and dynamic stakeholder group – and that it is entirely within our sphere to do so. Building relationships is a two-way thing, and realising that we can indeed change the situation if we choose to is a powerful first step.

Some answers to Question Two: Countering Political Players

Some of the ways to counter these traits and position you for success include:

  1. Consistently meeting and/or exceeding the expectations of your stakeholders. Delivering results brings you organizational credibility that is not easily negated by the words and actions of others. This is best achieved by proactive stakeholder management.
  2. Learn the political landscape of your organization. Be aware of how politics are unfolding around you. Determine the political players in your organization. Observe their actions and tactics. Anticipate what they will do next. Identify the power blocks and alliances that exist. The more you know, the better you can determine the course of action that is best for you.
  3. Actively manage your reputation. It’s ok to talk about your successes and to self-promote in a positive way. And, also promote your team and/or the people around you who helped with the success.
  4. Do not let negative talk fester. If someone engages in negative talk about you, your team or your accomplishments confront them with facts – address it quickly.
  5. Don’t take sides unnecessarily. Try not to become part of one of the existing power blocks, this often limits your options going forward. Instead keep your options open.
  6. Create your own alliance with people who are aligned with your values and engage in ‘good’ politics. Recruit people into your circle of influence by offering them support, encouragement, information, input, feedback, resources and access to others in your network. Earn their trust and respect through positive deeds and actions. Building your network will take time but it is worth the effort
  7. Don’t denigrate others. It’s easy to be trapped into a discussion where negative sentiments are being expressed about someone, even if you do not agree. Say, “I’m not comfortable talking about ‘Person X’ when they are not in the room. If you have an issue with them I suggest you talk about it with them directly.”
  8. ‘Keep your friends close, your enemies closer’. Sun Tzu, the author of the Art of War, understood that you have to be able to think like your enemies if you want to defeat them. So don’t shut out those who practice “bad” politics – rather, engage them, try to understand their perspectives, and learn their patterns. The more you know about them, the better you can manage your relationship with them.
  9. Remember, it’s not personal. Stay detached, don’t let your emotions dictate your actions, find support in your network, stay positive and, focus on delivering positive results.
  10. Think and look for “Win-Win” solutions. Win-lose outcomes will create enemies.
  11. Be true to your core values and principles. If a person or action does not fit within your core values you need to reconsider your path going forward.
  12. Be trusting but expect betrayal. Pragmatic trust is the key to successful engagement, if you are not prepared to trust people, they will not trust you.

Organisational politics can be an ugly game in organisations that are not well lead and governed, often played by those whose only objective is complete, selfish victory. To avoid project failure, we have to recognise those who engage in bad politics, protect our team from them, and steer clear of situations where we might violate our core values.

To succeed as project managers, we need to link good politics with good stakeholder analysis and management and proactively use our personal or assigned powers within the organisation to obtain the support and resources needed to achieve our project’s objectives and ‘meet or exceed’ our stakeholder’s expectations. In reality, this is the only way we can succeed.

By being observant and patient, we can learn to recognise and use behaviour politically advantageous in our own project work.  Some frequently mentioned positive political behaviours that we might master to become more effective project managers are:

  1. Be subtle.  If we blatantly try to gain power or influence others, we usually meet with resistance.  Subtlety makes political behaviour successful.  For example, we’ll have more success in promoting our pet project by lobbying in the corridors and exchanging positive comments about it over coffee than by trying to bludgeon it through a staff meeting.  Subtlety is always more persuasive than blatant use of power.
  2. Work hard.  If we can’t justify our claim to power, no amount politicking will help.  We earn our spurs by showing that we can work hard, help others, and accept unpleasant tasks; that we are tolerant, principled, trustworthy, courteous, and caring.  People who lack these qualities may resort to character assassination, skulduggery, nepotism, and treachery – and sooner or later their sins will no doubt catch up with them.  Until then, they’re forever looking over their shoulders.  Competence alone won’t guarantee success, but it’s essential in the long run.
  3. Build relationships.  Politically astute project managers build sound alliances according to the principle of reciprocal favours.  Maxims such as ‘one good turn deserves another’ illustrate the ethic of political reciprocity.  We should build healthy relationships with managers and colleagues, and treat subordinates with respect and fairness to foster their loyalty and support.  We don’t always know when we might need them.  Our aim is to build up a reservoir of good will.
  4. Negotiate.  Knowing when to make concessions, when to compromise, and when to hold out is part of the political process.  Negotiation includes subtle attempts to influence others to achieve our goal or to gain power.
  5. Keep power brokers on our side.  It is political suicide to alienate those in power.  Never disagree with them in public; find ways to make them look good; allow them to take credit; follow the chain of command; be a team player; don’t create problems that make them look bad.  But we need not agree with absolutely everything they say – that may damage our credibility.  We must, though, support and remain loyal to those who can help us most.

Enthusiastic and committed project managers strive to get things done by exerting influence, a process that involves the use of power.  If we have power we can influence the behaviour of others and get people to do what we want them to do.  Project managers often have limited formal power or authority – sometimes rather less than our responsibilities require.   However, there are ways in which we can accumulate power:

  1. Get promoted.  Power and influence are normally part and parcel of the formal authority vested in a managerial position.  But remember, as well as using our recognised title and role in organisation, we may need to bolster this legitimate coercive power with other forces to increase our influence over others.
  2. Control resources.  We will gain additional power over others if we are in a position to approve their requests for essential resources such as money, equipment, space, staffing, transport, or facilities.  Unfortunately, project managers don’t usually own resources – they borrow them.
  3. Control information.  People rely on access to information to do their jobs; so the more we know about what’s going on, the better we can decide how to use that information to influence others.  Find out what is going on through formal channels and through our own informal networks.  Get ourselves on to the right committees and distribution lists.  And if we know what’s going on behind the scenes by accumulating privileged information, all the better – we can then act far more effectively than those who are not in the know.
  4. Possess knowledge.  Expert power can be ours when others choose to act as we suggest because they acknowledge that we know more than they do.  So we need to build our knowledge about project management, and of the running of our organisation, so that others rely on our expertise and defer to our judgement.
  5. Establish credibility.  We can build up the trust of our employees and colleagues and, in time, their dependence, by earning a reputation as a performer, one who delivers, and who keeps promises.  Perhaps the quickest way for us to dent our credibility and trust is by failing to deliver on our assurances.
  6. Help others.  Get others to feel obligated to us in some way so that their gratitude is a natural consequence.  Good project managers can do so without any sinister Mafia-type underpinnings because it’s good business and makes sense.  Usually our organisation benefits from such favours, but remember that we can also gain influence over others by doing them a good turn or two.
  7. Get powerful allies.  One of the smartest organisational strategies is to get to know the boss’s personal assistant well – because that person has the boss’s ear and is, for that reason alone, in a position of power.  Why?  Power also comes from having direct access to someone with power.  Proximity or a direct line to the powerful obviously gives us more scope to exert influence, real or perceived.  So we need to:                                                       –  Identify our organisation’s opinion leaders and power brokers – and they’re not all higher level people.  What would these people welcome in terms of ‘favours’ (help with their project, more resources, respect, coaching, etc)?                                                                                                                                         – Willingly provide such favours, if doing so is not being illegal, unethical or disloyal to colleagues.                                                                                                       – Antagonise no one unless some greater purpose is at stake.
  8. Get some charisma or mana.  If we have a powerful physique or a deep and resonant voice that could impress, unnerve or even intimidate others, we are well on our way to having others defer to our wishes.  But nature has blessed few of us in this way.  We can influence others, however, if we possess or develop some kind of charisma, mana, presence, self-confidence or sense of mission that persuades colleagues and employees to agree with us.  Try to make ourselves personally compatible with people at all levels in our organisation.  And, if necessary, create the illusion of power by attending to the way we look, dress, and furbish our work space or office.  The company we keep is also important.  And who knows – such strident politicians might benefit from plastic surgery or eventually genetic engineering!!

Here are some further thoughts about managing and communicating with stakeholders:

  1. Involve stakeholders in planning benefits delivery.  Identify all stakeholders who will need to be involved in the project in order for it to contribute the anticipated benefits to our business.  This will help ensure that the scope of the project includes all activities necessary to satisfy our project stakeholders.
  2. Avoid being against – instead by for.  For example, instead of being against the sponsor’s proposal for outsourcing project work, be for it – so we can focus on improving outsourcing.  Instead of being against our company policy on purchasing, be for an improved policy.  What happens is that, whatever we are against works against us.  We begin fighting it and become part of the problem.  But when we state what we are for, we begin focusing on the potential for positive change – and, in the process, get a reputation for progress and solution-thinking rather than for negativity and resistance to change.
  3. When real conflict occurs.  Some successful practices when the going gets really rough are:
      • – Arrange for the presence of a witness to some conversations.  This can be an effective self-protective measure.
      • – Keep good records, as legal proof, for when recollections fades.  Have our reservations about important decisions recorded in the minutes.
      • – Comprehensive diaries, journals and minutes of meetings are important records of incidents, places, dates and decisions.
      • – If we are aware of an offence, report it.  Don’t use it to advance our own position.  Blackmail is a criminal act.
  4. Use our legitimate power.  Power has a legitimate basis if it comes from expertise, positional authority, or personality.  But power is illegitimate if it is ultra vires (beyond what is officially authorised); if it arises from nepotism or unlawful benefits; if it is based on blackmail of colleagues, superiors or subordinates; if it is unconscionable because of a difference in the strength of position; or if it involves deceit and misrepresentation.
  5. Use our influencing skills.  Influencing others isn’t about manipulation or the misuse of power.  When we establish and maintain good working relationships so that other people will be receptive to our ideas and willing to consider our suggestions, we are using influencing skills.  When we present our concepts logically and persuasively (and truthfully) so that people can understand and appreciate the value of our proposals, we are also using influencing skills.
  6. Admit our concerns.  This is a very powerful influencing style.  By admitting mistakes, uncertainty, and asking for others’ assistance, we can often get people to change their position.  “Look, I’m very nervous about undertaking this project without your expert input.  I am sure that the project will go much better if you could help please.”
  7. Use common vision.  Most experts agree that this is the most powerful of all influencing styles.  By invoking a common goal or by emphasising the positives, we can often get people to change their views:  “We all want this project to succeed.  We’ll all have a much more secure future if this project produces this product on schedule.  By joining us, you’ll become part of this important team and help us win.”
  8. Finally, three key practices for savvy project managers that need emphasis are:
    • – Manage stakeholder expectations.  All of the tools of project management can be employed to communicate clearly what is possible and what will be done.
    • – Control who becomes a stakeholder.  Among managers and customers, there is no shortage of people eager to influence the project.  However, if they don’t have the right to this influence, push back.
    • – Manage upward.  Many of the stakeholders, including the sponsor, functional managers, and customers, have more formal authority than we the project manager.  But we must actually lead them.  They need us to ask the hard questions, provide feasible alternatives, confront them with facts, and continually motivate them toward action with knowledge, persistence and enthusiasm.

Projects can cause considerable change.  Resistance to change can take many forms within a project, and it is important to identify resistance to change as soon as possible and take appropriate action to resolve it.  Common examples of stakeholder reluctance, resistance or obstruction include:

    • – continually asking for more detail before attempting to make a decision
    • – disseminating so much detailed information to the project team that no one has a chance of analysing or understanding it and making a decision based upon it
    • – assuring others that the project is important, yet not allocating any real time to it
    • – communicating the need for realistic solutions, but dismissing every proposal as unrealistic and impractical
    • – disregarding serious project issues with responses such as “I’m not surprised,” effectively deflating the importance of the message
    • – ‘head in the sand’ attitude towards bad news, often demonstrated by the display of aggression or defensiveness towards the messenger
    • – staying silent, implying that consent has not been given – thus bringing the whole decision-making process within a project to a halt by a stakeholder unwilling to provide positive affirmation
    • – refusing to commit staff and resources to the project, either because they are too busy or because the project is not seen as having a higher priority than their current business-as-usual assignments.

Stakeholder Classifications 

There are a variety of ways in which to classify stakeholders, one more humorous approach is shown by the flowchart below, where for example a project champion would be a person who is supportive of the project and possesses a high level of power and interest.

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Some stakeholders will be determined to hold on to their resistance, for a variety of reasons.  Some ideas that might help overcome ongoing resisters are:

  1. The road-blocker.  This is a nice, clean type of resistance where the employee just says “no” in one form or another, usually without giving reasons.  We should help such employees to be more specific about their objections.  Ask “What specifically worries you?” or “What in particular do you object to?”  This will tell us what we are dealing with and give us a point at which to begin discussion.  Fully examine the resistance by listening actively and asking questions to clarify.  Be sure we have heard and explored fully what the employee has to say before moving on to action planning.  When we move to action planning, ensure the employee has clear goals and timelines to achieve.
  2. The passive resister.  These people say, in effect: “Tell me exactly what you want me to do.”  This is a hidden form of resistance.  If we fall for it, the resister can comply with the bare minimum, but not the spirit, of what we want.  We might ask “Are you quite clear about what is being asked and expected of you?”  This may force the resister to accept more responsibility for good performance.
  3. The delayer.  “I’ll get on to it first thing Monday morning”, says the delayer.  And then, of course, something more important always crops up.  If we think this is a resistance tactic rather than an honest response, try asking“Is there anything preventing you from beginning now?”
  4. The reverser.  This form of resistance can be tricky.  But if we find ourselves being surprised by someone’s enthusiastic response (“Wow!  What a great idea!”), look for a quick delay as a follow-up. If this happens, we can be fairly sure the employee is telling us what we want to hear but intends to do nothing in particular about it.  Say something like, “I’m really glad you think it’s a good idea.  What do you like about it?”
  5. The dodger.  “Let Jane do it eh” switches the responsibility on to someone else or even another department.  If our request is reasonable, don’t fall for this tactic.  Let dodgers know that it is from them personally that we are expecting action.
  6. The threatened.  These resisters imply that their line manager (or someone else) won’t approve.  This may or may not be true, but don’t discuss it now.  Say something like“I appreciate your concern and I’ll check it out.  Meanwhile, what I’d like you to do is …” or “I’ll bear that in mind, but what objections do you personally have?”
  7. The sympathy seeker.  These people try to make us feel guilty for asking them to alter their ways and try something new.  Empathise with their problem, use active listening techniques and, unless their reasons are very sound, repeat our request assertively.
  8. The traditionalist.  This character says:  “But we’ve always done it the other way.”  Sometimes the old way is the best way, but most often the appeal to tradition is straightforward resistance of the ‘better the devil we know’ variety.  Try saying, “I understand the old way worked very well; however, this situation is unique.”  Or “Yes, the old approach worked well – how might we adapt it to this new way?”

At the completion of the project we might review the effectiveness of our stakeholder management strategies through questions such as these:

  1. Were project needs correctly identified initially?
  2. Was the project purpose statement correct?
  3. Was the project goal correct?
  4. Did needs change during the project due to unforeseen events?
  5. Were benefits correctly identified and satisfied by the project?
  6. Were expected results obtained?
  7. Were unexpected results obtained?
  8. Is there a follow-up need to be examined in subsequent projects?
  9. Were all stakeholders identified at the outset?
  10. Did new stakeholders appear during the project?
  11. Were stakeholders managed effectively?
  12. Did stakeholders interfere unnecessarily with the detail?
  13. Did any stakeholders fail in their obligations?
  14. Was every effort made to make the client a participant in the success of the project?
  15. Was the client asked on a regular basis about the level of satisfaction with the progress of the project?
  16. Were there regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings with the client?
  17. Was the client informed of potential problems in a timely manner and asked to participate in the problem-solving process?

Stakeholder Management Flowchart

Here is a simple flowchart showing how we might analyse project stakeholders:

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Stakeholder Analysis Exercise

The New Zealand government is floating the idea of establishing a local prison to overcome prisoner overcrowding:

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First, identify and list all likely stakeholder groups, one of which is doubtlessly the prisoners themselves, and then second, select two of the key groups for more detailed initial analysis in terms of these points:

  1. Stakeholder group (name).
  2. Nature of their interest, stake, expectation, role.
  3. Likely level of interest in project (H, M, L).
  4. Likely attitude towards the project (positive, neutral, negative).
  5. Likely level of influence from two perspectives:
    • – project on group (H, M, L).
    • – group on project (H, M, L).
  6. Basic management / communication strategy that might apply (comply, consult, monitor (spy?), convert, partner, mitigate, control, inform, ignore, tolerate, nullify etc).
  7. Remarks.  Any relevant explanatory comments and key assumptions.

This is a preliminary analysis only and no formal consultation is proposed at this time.  However, should the proposition be explored further, early stakeholder engagement and involvement will be essential.  Develop an appropriate spreadsheet for this analysis on the whiteboard or on flipchart paper.  Team exercise usually takes about 30 minutes followed by a 15 minute presentation and critique.





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