This is a guest article by Diana Eskander for Genius Project – Project Management Software.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to balance the various interests of a group of people?
Stakeholder management is one of the most vital components to any successful endeavor – but it can often prove to be the most difficult.
In a nutshell, people have different opinions, expectations, agendas and ways of communicating, and managing these differences takes a skilled leader. The ability to manage the people involved in a project (clients, team members, suppliers, etc.) and their relationship with each other, goes a long way in guaranteeing the smooth and timely delivery of project milestones.
With this in mind, optimizing the dynamic between the different stakeholders, by managing their individual interests and expectations, is key.
Here are a few steps to doing so.
1. Identify the stakeholders of the project
The first step involves simply identifying all the stakeholders who are involved and will be involved, at all the touchpoints of a project. At this stage, it’s best to list them all even if their role may seem relatively insignificant at the time.
Involve the team. Ask stakeholders that have already been identified who else they know who could be affected by this project. They will often point out people they know from their professional networking who could have a stake in this project – often people you’ve forgotten or never knew about.
2. Outline the stakeholders’ goals
The start of a project is the ideal time to map out each stakeholder’s role in relation to the project and what their individual goals may be. You might have to ask them several times before you get a real understanding of what they want from the project and what their objectives for contributing might be.
Some stakeholders might not be getting anything particular out of the project, and some might be losing out as a result of what you are going to deliver, for example they might lose their job.
Don’t assume that everyone is going to find it easy to tell you their goals, or that they are somehow going to altruistically contribute when the outcome isn’t great for them.
When you know more about what each stakeholder wants, draft up a summary on the agreed-upon expectations and contributions of each stakeholder. Circulate it, but make sure it’s a version that doesn’t have any private comments on!
Read next: The 6 Things Every Stakeholder Wants
3. Prioritize their level of influence
Each stakeholder will have their own level of influence based on their role in delivering the project and on their hierarchical position (if one exists). Knowing who has the most influence helps project managers balance the weight of the various opinions and interests of the people involved.
Prioritize your list of stakeholders, remembering that those who might be the most influential might also be the least important at this time. The stakeholder salience model can help with this.
Stakeholder influence changes during the life of the project, so go back to your prioritized list regularly and review whom you should be spending time with.
4. Engage your stakeholders
Nurture the goals and expectations of all stakeholders.
Check in on their progress and guide them to achieving what they set out to accomplish.
Read more about how to work with people who are difficult to engage in this article about navigating the politics of stakeholder management.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
The four steps above aren’t everything that’s involved in effective stakeholder management, and even this step doesn’t complete the picture really.
However, if you’ve only got the opportunity to do one thing when it comes to engaging and working with your stakeholders, it needs to be this one. Finding the perfect balance between too much information, which can lead to unnecessary distractions and just enough information to take proper action, is an important part of the art of stakeholder management.
One of the biggest challenges that project managers face is related to sharing relevant information (only) with each of the stakeholders – and how to do this. Setting up project collaboration tools will be an immense help in communicating project details to the various (and correct) stakeholders.
Use a variety of communications tools to get your message across and keep your stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the project.
About the author: Diana Eskander is a copywriter for Cerri.com, makers of Genius Project.