Stakeholders are an essential element of project management. Essentially, a stakeholder is a person or group of people that are relevant to your project or what your project is changing. As such, you need to consider what they’re thinking and feeling to be able to deliver the best outcome for your project. You must be intentional about this. Without a doubt, don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best. Instead, build a Stakeholder Management Strategy
What is a Stakeholder Management Strategy
Essentially, a stakeholder management strategy is a planned approach to work with your project stakeholders. This includes:
- Identifying who your stakeholder are.
- Engaging early on in your project.
- Tracking and monitoring your stakeholder views.
Personally, I don’t think this needs to be a detailed strategy, documented in a formal manner which then needs sponsor signed off. However, if you’re a new or junior project manager, then writing it down would be worthwhile. Just do it in a pragmatic and simple way – that’s all I’ll say.
But, before you lay out the stakeholder management strategy for your project, it’s important to understand that there are different types of stakeholder. In essence, each type has a different relationship with your project. Therefore, they need to be managed differently. So, what are these 3 types of project stakeholder?
The 3 types of project stakeholder
Ultimately, a stakeholder can be relevant to your project in one of 3 ways:
1. They can be affected by your project.
The changes that your project will make will be felt by these people. This could be in a good or bad way and of course, the size of the impact could be different. For example, types of stakeholder in a retail setting include: customers, store staff, staff doing day to day operational work.
2. They could be involved in your project.
Some of your stakeholders will be responsible for actually doing some of your project activities. Perhaps they will be included in an advisory way. For example, stakeholder involved in your project include functional experts and technical specialists.
3. Or, they could be an influence on your project.
These stakeholders hold major sway over your project. For instance, examples of this type include senior leaders who sit on your governance group or even on the board. Similarly, your sponsor is also an important stakeholder who is an influence on your project.
Identify who your stakeholders are?
At first, you need to identify your stakeholders. Find out who they are. Initially by functional area and then by name. (That’s right a stakeholder is a person first and foremost).
So, start by listing out your stakeholders. To begin, you may have a few in mind which you know about. In addition to these people, here are a few more different sources to help you identify project stakeholders:
- Based on the initial conversations that you’ve already had with the sponsor or project team members.
- Brainstorming with your sponsor and project team
- Reviewing the organisation set up to see if anyone or any department is missing.
- Taking recommendations from other project manager or “lessons learned” from other projects.
Engaging your stakeholders
Early on in your project, you need to identify your stakeholders and “engage” with them (which really is just a fancy way of saying talk to!).
The initial engagement with a particular stakeholder should aim to give an overview of the project aims and get their perspective.
Start by setting the scene – why is it that you are wanting to talk to them? What’s the problem you’re taking on? What is the project? What are the goals and what are the deliverables?
From there, you can continue to develop the relationship with each project stakeholder.
Tracking and monitoring stakeholder sentiment
The final element of your project’s stakeholder management strategy is to agree how you’ll track and monitor stakeholder sentiment. It’s important that you have a thorough, consistent, but achievable approach to be able to keep track of your stakeholders.
You’ll also want to handle each of the different types of stakeholder differently.
Monitoring how your project will affect stakeholders
You need to continue to assess how your project affects stakeholders. As you go through your project, you’ll want to monitor the impact level. If you fail to build an effective stakeholder management strategy for these people then your project risks being a “train wreck” at launch
Things could go very wrong. In turn, this will lead to serious implications for you and the wider business. Points to consider include as you manage these stakeholders:
- What’s in it for them?
- How will you communicate with these stakeholders?
- What support will you offer them as the change lands?
- What could go wrong and what will you do about it?
Working with stakeholders that are involved in your project
In all likelihood, you’ll be working closely with these stakeholders through the project. As a result, it’s easy to forget to consider their emotions. If they disengage with the project or yourself, then you risk project work missing deadlines or not being done to the right quality levels. Considerations include:
- Do they understand the reasons for the project?
- What is their part to play in delivering this project?
- How does this fit within the overall priorities?
- What happens if their part doesn’t happen correctly?
Planning that stakeholders have a positive influence on your project
(Or at least, not a negative influence).
These stakeholders can significantly change the outcome of your project. As a result, you want to keep these people onboard. Don’t let them forget the benefits and reasons for doing what you’re doing. The last thing that you want as a project manager is to loose sight of these stakeholders. Their important perspective is not going away – even if you really want it to!
Don’t stick your head in the sand. It’s not very nice to find one of these stakeholders rejecting your project at the last moment. To help avoid this, consider:
- Do they understand and agree with the reasons and benefits for doing this project?
- If not, how will you win them over?
- What are their main concerns about the project?
- How would they improve the approach that you’re taking?
The bottom line: Be intentional and strategic with stakeholder management
At the end of the day, stakeholders will play a huge part in your project and can often be the difference between project success and failure. To minimise the chance of stakeholders causing the downfall of your project, you need to be intentional. Be strategic with your stakeholder management. Think longer term. Think bigger picture. Build relationships. Listen. Be considerate.
Ultimately, to be a successful project manager and deliver great changes, you need to be able to manage stakeholders effectively. So, be sure to build a stakeholder management strategy for your project now.
About the Author
Oliver Banks is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. In fact, he’s led and managed many different types of retail projects. In turn, he’s worked with a great variety of stakeholders. Oliver loves the opportunity to improve and innovate processes and operations. This brings together his engineering background, his curiosity and his passion for making things better.