Let me preface this by saying I spend a lot of time on stakeholder engagement and management. Most of what I’ll write about can be applied not only to stakeholders, but team members, management, spouses, or anyone else you come in contact with. The reason I talk about it here is stakeholders can kill your project, make your life hell, and/or set you back in your project management career.
I learned stakeholder management the hard way. My first, and largest, project failure was just shy of $2M. In a company of 17,000 people, I didn’t identify a team of 4 who had overall responsibility for new product development. Once they discovered my project, they swooped in and ended it. My lesson learned here; even if you think you know who your stakeholders are, dig deeper.
First, let’s define a stakeholder. PMBOK has its definition and if you’d like to read it, Google “PMI Definition of Stakeholder”. Though it’s accurate, there are a few other points to consider. They are:
- Fully Engaged – they pay attention to project progress, iterative outcomes, assist with issues, and are active listeners/ask good questions during meetings
- Supportive – this does not always mean they want the project to move forward, but they understand WHY it’s needed and won’t go out of their way to sabotage it (yes, I’ve had stakeholders try to kill a project mid-stream because they wanted to funding to go to their area)
- Accountable – follow through on their commitments
- NOT Indifferent & Apathetic – reference back to fully engaged
But who is a Stakeholder? They’re not always easy to spot and sometimes, they don’t want to be known. There are two areas I look at when identifying stakeholders:
- Follow the $$Money$$ – if they, or their department, are paying for any part of the project, they’re a stakeholder. Some companies have departmental budgets where a portion is taken to support ongoing projects. Be aware of this and ensure there’s representation, even if the department lead doesn’t feel it’s necessary.
- Are they impacted? – I have an 80/20 rule here; 80% are easy to see, the 20% are not and it’s up to you to dig and ask questions. These people can be internal and/or external to an organization. Don’t be afraid to ask, a lot, until you’re satisfied.
The “other” stakeholder assessment. Again, I won’t talk about the PMBOK stakeholder assessment. I’m talking about the other assessment. The personal assessment. The one you, as the PM, creates and never lets others see it. I know how to get on the CIO’s calendar for a bag of Reese’s. Need a key stakeholder who hates meetings to show up at one? Bring yellow Peep’s. Find people’s likes and dislikes, as well as other tid-bits of information and keep it somewhere. You never know when you’ll need it!
Identifying who stakeholders are and their characteristics is tricky. My lesson learned was expensive and one I share frequently to show how critical it is. Once you have stakeholders ID’d, it’s time to build relationships. Join me for Part 2 of Stakeholder Management, coming soon!!