Managing stakeholders is not as much a priority as it should be and is one of the key reasons projects fail!
At least that is my opinion, and with some good reason, may I say!
I work a lot with global companies – many of whom have a matrix type structure, where there are lots of dotted line responsibilities! – and in the course of my work with them I frequently ask, when discussing a project or initiative, so “who are the stakeholders and how are you managing them?”
Now, some are very good at it – but many are not. And the reason many are not is because it is not given the importance it should have.
Very often when I ask who the key stakeholder in a project is, the answer I get is – my boss! Well, he or she may be one of the stakeholders but is by no means the only one.
So here are 6 things to do to make this work for you:
- Identify your stakeholders. So, you need to map out a complete list of all the stakeholders involved, and they can include:
- Your boss
- Your boss’s boss etc….
- Internal departments
- and so on
The easiest way to determine your stakeholders is to ask yourself the question – who can affect and who is affected by this project? There can be both internal and external stakeholders.
Why is it important to map out these stakeholders? Well, simply put they can make or break you – if you do it well, they will support you and your project. If you ignore them, they can sabotage you – just because you have ignored them!
- Identify their needs.
What is really important to them in this project? What will success look like? What will winning look like? This is so important – and do not assume you know. A client of mine told me recently that she assumed she knew but she discovered that success to one of the key stakeholders was very different to what she had assumed. If it had not been identified, it would have completely derailed the project! So, check their needs!!
- Identify the support you require from them.
Be very explicit about this – it is part of the engagement! Make sure they know what – and when you need the support. Build this into your project plan. Again, do not assume they know.
- What does a win/win look like for all the stakeholders?
My advice is always to map this out on paper – just be really sure you understand what the win/win looks like from all perspectives, not just your own. Once you have it all mapped out – then stand back and have a really objective look at it!
What I mean by that is – understand what this all means. What is important to who and why? Am I delivering a win/win to all – and if not, what can I do?
- Build a communication plan – and engage!
This is critical. Don’t trust to memory – have it as an integral element of your project plan. This forms not only the basis of communication but is also a key element of the full engagement of the stakeholders. Without this engagement your project is unlikely to succeed.
- Incorporate a review process with stakeholders.
This should form part of your communication plan but I am separating it out to give it the focus it requires and demands. Have regular reviews with your stakeholders because the more you do so, the more involved they will be and very often will provide additional resource, or find quicker ways of doing things.
I truly believe that a major reason that so many projects stall and/or fail is lack of strong engagement of stakeholders. They can make all the difference, and ignoring them will make you flounder – at best!!
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