by Nate Crews,
posted on www.projectsatwork.com.
Project managers need to lead and manage a number of project areas to achieve project objectives, from scope, time and cost to quality and risk. One integral area is stakeholder engagement — the tenth and most recent knowledge area added to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) — Fifth Edition.
Stakeholder engagement is about involving people who may be affected by project decisions or can influence the implementation of those decisions. They may support or oppose the decisions, be influential in the organization or within the business unit in which it operates, hold relevant official or unofficial positions, or be affected in the long term by the project. Here are some key concepts that a project manager should keep in mind as they develop their approach to managing stakeholder engagement.
Stakeholder engagement requires project managers to define clear roles and responsibilities for each project stakeholder.
According to PMBOK Guide—Fifth Edition, a stakeholder is “a person or organization (e.g., customer, sponsor, performing organization, or the public) that is actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by execution or completion of the project.” A stakeholder may also exert influence over the project and its deliverables.Below are some examples of stakeholders who may need to be engaged during a project.
The project manager should consult with project sponsors, peer project managers and project team members to identify a complete list of project stakeholders. Conducting a brainstorm is an effective technique to completing this task. The project manager needs to take this step and analyze the intentions, values and expectations of key project stakeholders.
• Identifies the interests, knowledge levels, expectations, and influence levels of various stakeholders.
• Relates them to the purpose of the project.
• Identifies the potential impact or support each stakeholder could generate and classify them in a stakeholder strategy.
Stakeholder engagement is about developing and executing a stakeholder strategy for communicating with, informing and managing key project stakeholders. Stakeholder engagement also is about connecting with your stakeholders in dialogue to find out what social and environmental issues matter most to them in order to establish a partnership. The objectives of stakeholder engagement are to:
• Provide the stakeholders with information on project objectives and project status.
• Build trusting relationships with project stakeholders.
• Document their intentions and needs as project requirements and objectives.
• Understand stakeholder perspective and vision for the project.
• To seek stakeholder buy-in.
• Develop a stakeholder strategy plan.
A stakeholder engagement strategy is a detailed plan of actions for collaborating with key stakeholders, identifying their commitment to project objectives, and managing their expectations. It is a formal document that defines the level and nature of consultations between key stakeholders and the project management team.
Stakeholder engagement planning identifies the people and organizations that are affected by or could influence the project objectives or success of any of the implementation phases. Stakeholder identification is a continuous process and should be done before each phase of the project to ensure that the most significant stakeholders for that phase are known. For example, during the initiation phase business partners are the most significant stakeholder, but during development the technical managers may be more significant. Identifying stakeholders and understanding their relative degree of influence on a project is critical. Failure to do so can extend the timeline and raise costs substantially. An example is late recognition that the legal department is a significant stakeholder which results in delays and increased expenses due to legal requirements.
Project managers should also invest time into understanding the personalities, likes and dislikes of their key stakeholders. This information will help project managers to customize communication with that key stakeholder to gain their approval and support.
Stakeholders have varying levels of responsibility and authority when participating on a project and these can change over the course of the project’s life cycle. Their responsibility and authority range from occasional contributions in surveys and focus groups to full project sponsorship, which includes providing financial and political support. Stakeholders can have an adverse impact on the project objectives.
Therefore, project managers should categorize their stakeholders by influence and interest on the project. This allows project managers to customize interaction and support for each stakeholder. It also determines whether a project stakeholder requires a detailed stakeholder strategy. The following matrix is an effective tool to categorize stakeholders. Stakeholders that are in the “Manage Closely” section require an extensive stakeholder management strategy to be developed.
Project managers need to possess a range of leadership skills to develop partnerships with stakeholders that achieve positive project results. They should adopt a leadership style that best fits the circumstance of the project and allow for situational adjustments. When developing stakeholder relationships, project managers must :
• set expectations on project deliverables.
• deliver on time and within quality metrics.
• effectively communicate and understand how messages are processed.
• resolve project related conflicts.
• persuade others without force or coercion.
• manage change, transitioning individuals, teams and organizations to a desired future state.
In summary, project managers need to practice effective stakeholder engagement to ensure project success. Stakeholder engagement requires: identifying and assessing stakeholders, categorizing project stakeholders and developing and executing stakeholder strategies.Project managers need to review stakeholders before each phase to identify the most significant stakeholders. Key skills that a project manager needs to possess for stakeholder engagement include: managing expectations, ability to deliver results, effective communication skills, conflict resolution persuasion skills and find effective ways in managing change.
Nate Crews has been involved in the management of projects and programs for more than 35 years using Waterfall and Agile methodologies. He holds several project management and technology certifications, including CSM, CSPO, PMP and CBAP, and is a Stanford University Certified Project Manager. Crews is a senior project management consultant for the International Institute for Learning in New York and Corporate Education Group in Boston, where he teaches on-site and virtual courses for corporate clients worldwide. He also is an instructor for University of California, Irvine and UCLA Extension programs, and is teaching “Project Stakeholder Management,” an online course though UC Irvine Extension, from Oct. 21 through Nov. 24.