The Stakes Are High

June 29, 2016 by The FlexPro Group

investorsStakeholdernoun: “A person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something, as a business or industry.

In other words, it’s someone with a vested interest in what you are doing.

In project management, we stress the importance of “Stakeholder Management”. In reality, it’s simply keeping the right people informed and engaged at the right times. It’s about managing expectations and communicating regularly and often. This becomes more and more difficult in today’s workplaces with geographically dispersed global teams.

After many years of managing projects, I’ve learned that it’s not enough just to do your project well and manage your team well. You’ll save yourself lots of time and headaches if you agree upon a regular communication plan with the people who care about what you’re working on. This could be a boss, sponsor, investor, board member, colleague, or a number of other interested parties.

Here are some key components of an effective stakeholder management plan:

  • WHO:  Decide who your stakeholders truly are. There are often more than you realize.
  • WHAT:  Agree on what will be shared. Schedule/timeline progress, budget status, key accomplishments or setbacks since last update, risks or opportunities the team is facing?
  • WHEN:  Pick a regular schedule, and stick to it as much as possible. This builds trust. Every Friday by noon, by the 1stof every month, by 5pm the day after the team meeting?
  • HOW or WHERE:  Let them know how you will keep them informed. An in-person meeting, written report or Powerpoint slide, or teleconference?

Let’s relate these project management methodologies to an example outside of work.

Imagine you’ve hired a homebuilder to build your dream home. You’re a key stakeholder in that extensive and expensive project, right? Who else cares? Your spouse, and maybe even your kids may have a vested interest.

While you and the homebuilder agree on a tentative plan for your home completion, everyone knows there will be setbacks and changes along the way. As the stakeholder, wouldn’t you expect regular progress updates? If you notice a delay in the brickwork due to a backorder, wouldn’t you want to know about the setback and perhaps offer a change to another brick style if you were flexible and it helped keep the project on schedule? If a stakeholder doesn’t receive regular updates, he/she can sometimes assume the worst case scenario. Isn’t that worse than just communicating the facts as they are?

Imagine a different scenario with better stakeholder management where you and the builder meet regularly to review progress; risks and setbacks are discussed openly; and solutions can be brainstormed together. A certain level of trust is built and the project tends to move along better, even if everything isn’t going perfectly.

If you haven’t given stakeholder management too much thought in the past, give it some careful attention now. It’s never too late to step this up (even on a current project).

I invite you to share how stakeholder management has worked for you and any other helpful tips you have.  We always enjoy your feedback here!

-Rose Cook, FlexPro CEO

Enter your email to receive The FlexPro Group Newsletter