All size of projects, even the smallest, littlest projects have stakeholders. Most management styles, systems, approaches and methodologies have to involve stakeholder management for this reason. Stakeholder management is so important in fact, that there are key principles involved in the process of managing stakeholders so that project managers have guidelines to follow and help them with the process. Nonetheless, many PM’s still ignore the need to include stakeholder management in their project planning and execution, which can result in communication issues, sometimes financing problems, issues with alienating key players in the project, and problems closing.
If you’re still unsure about stakeholder management and want a better understanding of why it matters, take a look at our what, why and how of stakeholder management to find out key reasons it should be a priority when you are project planning:
What Is Stakeholder Management?
Stakeholder management is where stakeholders are identified, their part in the project is analysed, how they can be managed is planned and then that plan is implemented.
Stakeholders tend to be people (it can be more than one person) who have an interest in the project either because they are somehow connected to the work, or they have an interest or are affected by the way the project turns out.
The majority of projects have various different stakeholders, not just one or a group of stakeholders from the same position. Often, their interests will differ and some may have substantially different interests. Often, stakeholders can have great influence over how a project turns out, which is why managing them properly is so important.
Why Prioritise Managing Stakeholders?
Managing stakeholders is often overlooked, and yet it is one of the most important factors of ensuring a project is delivered successfully. Regarding this important part of project management as a menial task, or something to be done ‘if there is time’ is a really bad idea. Failing to identify stakeholders, failing to manage a stakeholders expectations, failing to understand stakeholders conflicting interests and failing to resolve them and failing to recognise the power each and every stakeholder has over the project are all huge mistakes that could cost you time, money and even the success of the project. Managing stakeholders needs to be prioritised because they are major players in your project and their power has the ability to make or break your goals and completion.
How To Manage Stakeholders
There’s a lot to managing stakeholders and as with all project management, it is important to continually look to improve your skills and develop better ways of managing. However, there are a few important pointers that are a really good start if you’re looking to start as you mean to go on:
Identifying all your stakeholders is really important. It is absolutely crucial you know who all your stakeholders are so that they can be acknowledged and so that you can understand them. You need to know who they are so you can understand how they work, what their strengths and weaknesses are and how you can rely on them throughout the project. You should have an idea of conflicts so you understand ahead of time how you might manage resolutions. Eventually you will be sharing information with stakeholders, but before that you have to gain information about them.
Although it seems obvious that you should be looking ahead and using foresight to identify risks associated with stakeholders, often this isn’t something that is done well. The more you can look ahead for potential signs of risk, the more likely you are to have created ways to minimise or remove that risk ahead of time, therefore protecting the project.
Your stakeholders should be contacted early on in the project, and then at regular intervals just as you would with senior management. 57% of projects fail because of communication breakdowns, so keeping everybody in the loop is really important if you do want your project to succeed.
Kanban board software very much lends itself to technology that can easily include stakeholders and stakeholder communication and management. This will enable you to manage stakeholder expectations because you can control what they can see, and the information they will be receiving without creating too much extra work for yourself. If they know what to expect, they will be much less likely to cause conflict or be in touch constantly asking for updates. Check out this handy YouTube video on managing stakeholder expectations for more advice.
Managing Your Own Expectations
Sometimes, we can expect too much of people and that includes our stakeholders. As project manager you should be well practised in understanding behaviour without judgement, in order to work towards a more productive relationship. Have that approach with your stakeholders so you don’t hold too many expectations towards them.
Project management involves endless planning, and management of your stakeholders should be exactly the same. A considered, measured and calm approach to the way you engage with stakeholders is important. Well thought out plans on how, why and when to engage with stakeholders will serve your project well.
The more trust you can build between yourself and your stakeholders, the easier working with them will be. Identify them as individuals and try to get to know them as people first and foremost. Difficult stakeholder? Check out this handy video on YouTube on how to manage difficult stakeholders.
“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” – Denis Waitley
Stakeholder management is an incredibly important part of the project management process. With plenty of communication, well-considered information gathering, foresight and planning, stakeholders can easily become valuable assets and contribute to the success of your project.