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5 Critical Tips for Stakeholder Engagement

In a project, the project team members are mortals, and the stakeholders are the gods lounging around on Olympus. Stakeholders can be a boon to your journey, or they can smite you with a vengeance—and it all depends on if they think you are on their side. Some aspects of this challenge are considered more often than others. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, Elizabeth Harrin pinpoints five tips that especially make stakeholder management more, well, manageable:

  1. Stakeholders should have a say in decisions that affect them.
  2. Stakeholders can influence outcomes.
  3. Affected is not the same as involved.
  4. You should actively seek input.
  5. Engagement comes first, scheduling second.

High-Stakes Interaction

As the project manager, if the sponsor and other relevant executives support your actions, then you can do whatever you want. It does not matter in the short term if you listen to other stakeholders or not. But if you want to act with integrity and craft solutions that make the most people possible happy, then you should record the wants and needs of all stakeholders, since they will be affected by your decisions. You will not be able to please everyone, but if you keep proper records, you will at least be able to show to stakeholders why you were unable to accommodate them.

Besides, unhappy stakeholders can use their influence to make a technically successful project look like a failure. Or if they do not have that much power, they will at least be sure to complain to whomever they can. It is better to befriend stakeholders and have them help your project than it is to disregard them and wait for the insidious repercussions.

Harrin notes a difference between “involved” stakeholders and “affected” stakeholders. The former are the ones who show up to meetings and read status reports; the latter are basically everyone else, the people who are just waiting for the comet to hit. Your stakeholder engagement plan should account for ways to keep the “affected” people informed, in addition to the “involved” ones.

Once you have all your ducks in a row, you can actively seek input from stakeholders. The more information and assurance you have, the better (well, within reason). And finally, about engagement versus scheduling, Harrin says this:

Engagement rarely happens on the schedule you expect. Someone will be off sick when you are expecting their feedback. You’ll have to push the focus group back a week for an unforeseen reason. Or you’ll go ahead as planned and then realise that something came out of the engagement activities that mean you really should speak to that extra person or add more tasks to the schedule.

Where at all possible, build your project schedule around what falls out of how you engage with stakeholders.

With this information, you reduce the likelihood of the project being struck by lightning. You can view the original post here: http://www.esi-intl.co.uk/blogs/pmoperspectives/index.php/5-musts-of-stakeholder-engagement/

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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