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The Reality of Difficult Stakeholders

“Difficult” is a very general word to use, since stakeholders deserving this designation range from the angry or hysterical to the apathetical, the lazy, and the absent-minded. In a post at her blog, Elizabeth Harrin interviews Roger Joby, the managing director of R&NR Consulting Ltd. about his co-authored book, A Practical Guide to Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders.

Facing Reality

Difficult stakeholders that Harrin personally recalls include a flaky security manager, a careless program manager, and a scary ex-army captain. The reality is that project managers do not always have the benefit of handpicking their team – the team member who just doesn’t want to be there, the stakeholder who struggles to deal with sudden course changes. They all take part in the rain that spoils the PM’s parade. Aside from trying to be motivational or to placate, sometimes you just have to square off with the difficult ones and tell it like it is:

It is true that many stakeholders, particularly those that are not involved on the project as their main function, e.g. members of the finance department, can often be unintentionally obstructive. In most cases this can be addressed by simply explaining the situation and the impact that they are having on the project.

Last Resorts

Your best friend (or worst nightmare, depending on the scenario) will be your project sponsor. If they’re a good egg, you can go to them for assistance getting the other stakeholders in tow. If the sponsor is the problem, good luck. You’re going to need it! Management tools don’t have opinions and personalities – but people do. That’s why training tends to come up short when it comes to dealing with the people side of project risk management. If you’re going to manage risk as a PM, you’ll always need to be on the lookout for those problem stakeholders.

Read the full post at:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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