Project Management

The 5 Biggest Myths about Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder management is difficult. It is made more difficult when people fundamentally misunderstand what it is. There are some myths that have created more complications and have even become widespread throughout the field. In a post for the PM Perspective Blog, Elizabeth Harrin discusses five harmful but popular myths of stakeholder management:

  • Everybody is a stakeholder.
  • You can manage stakeholders.
  • You can identify all your stakeholders.
  • It’s basically just communication.
  • It addresses all the relationship issues on projects.

A Clearer Understanding

A common misconception is that everyone is a stakeholder. Your particular project will affect some more than others, and it is up to you to prioritize your time according to which affected individuals are most important. There is likely just not enough time to regularly communicate with the full multitude of people whom your project affects. Likewise, Harrin continues to explains how identifying all your stakeholders up front is not possible either:

It’s simply not the case, especially on projects that are complex, have a long duration or have any sense of scale. You can’t know all the project stakeholders at the beginning because some of them probably haven’t even joined the company yet, or been brought on as vendors or contractors. On programmes especially, as you don’t do long-range detailed planning, it’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty that you’ve captured all the project stakeholders in a single log from Day 1.

In any case, with the stakeholders you do identify, it is important to establish feedback loops with them early. One-way communication is not enough. Neither is communication that only comes at a few set intervals.

One of the biggest misconceptions about stakeholder management can come in how the title implies that you’re actively managing people. In actuality, it’s more in tune with managing the lines of communication with stakeholders. It’s not the active control of people; they’re people after all. They have their own peculiarities and differences that set them apart from everyone else. Along those lines, some conflict in a project can actually be a good thing. Minor conflict can work wonders for a team in finding solutions to problems.

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