In project management (and any other sort of management really) proper stakeholder management can mean the difference between success or failure. Although process and system changes are often the focus for a project, the people involved was inevitably what really pushed the project across the line or tanked it.
A stakeholder can be defined as any individual, group or organisation that can affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a project or change. Wow! Pretty much anyone then, isn’t it? Good luck if you’re an introvert!
The aim of stakeholder management is to create and maintain positive relationships of stakeholders through managing their expectations and agreeing objectives.
How do you go about doing this magic – step by step:
- Identify your stakeholders. Be as thorough as you can, and update your stakeholder register regularly if you become aware of additional stakeholders.
- Prioritise your stakeholders – the following stakeholder heat map is a common way to do so which is key to drawing up your communications plan and related activities:
- High power, High interest people: Fully engage and satisfy.
- High power, Low interest people: Keep satisfied
- Low power, High interest people: keep informed
- Low power, Low interest people: Monitor
- Establish and follow a communications plan. In all communications consider the audience! Keep the tone and the level of detail appropriate or run the risk of highly frustrated (under communicated) or bored (over communicated) stakeholders.
- Meaningfully engage with your stakeholders, and consider the following in terms of how to best influence them for a positive outcome of your project:
- What emotional or financial interest do they have in the project? What motivates them? It’s not always money.
- What information do they want from you? And at what level of detail? How do they want to receive information from you?
- Who influences their opinions in general, and who influences their opinion of you specifically?
- If they are not positive, what will likely win them over? How will you manage their opposition if they can’t be won over?
- Who else might be influenced by their opinions? How will this affect your project? Do those influenced by their opinion become stakeholders in their own right too?
In the end, people are always concerned with how projects and changes will affect them and their daily lives. For the high powered executive, it may be an extra zero on a balance sheet and the satisfaction or survival that comes with it. For the worker bee in the cubicle, it might be what the screen will look like tomorrow and uncertainty about their own capacity to adapt to the changes.
It’s all about the people, and more specifically it’s about talking to the people and guiding them through potentially bewildering changes in ways that matter!
By: Louisa Bouwer
Registered Prince2 Practitioner, enthusiastic cellphone photographer, agony aunt and protector of secrets, diviner or body language and general delight in both imagined and real crisis situations