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formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC
I just finished writing a response to a Request for Proposal and found an interesting theme in my response. The Stakeholder Analysis is the most important tool in the Project Manager’s toolkit. With a great Stakeholder Analysis you will have information that is key to planning for project communications, organizational change management, training, rollout plans and notifications, risk management, you name it. This will be an equally valuable key in planning Business Analysis activities and communications.
While I refer to this as a Project Management tool, the fact is it is a complete project tool. It is not something that can be completed by the Project Manager in a vacuum, nor is it something that should be written once and then filed away. As you work the project you will get additional information in many different ways that will make project plans and activities go more smoothly.
I am an avid poker player. Most poker books discuss the strategy of writing notes on other players as soon as the poker session is over (or even better during). The point of this strategy is to have better recall on how other players act in certain circumstances so that you can learn what their play says about the strength of their had hand and what plays you can use to increase your odds of making money.
Another useful analogy is the star sales person who takes careful notes on all customers, actual or prospective. With this information they can proactively provide meaningful leads to customers on items they desire or would benefit from. They can also avoid wasting time on cold calls that do not have a high likelihood of resulting in a sale. Finally, it will provide information to support inventory decisions, avoiding costly mistakes of purchasing items that are not likely to sell.
What information is the Stakeholder Analysis providing that will increase our chances of success?
Think of the Stakeholder Analysis has your very own Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. You will not be able to answer all of the questions upon first making an entry. As you learn more about the stakeholder and the project, additional information will become available. The Stakeholder Analysis should continue to grow throughout the project as you and the project team gain information. Update the Stakeholder Analysis as you learn more about your stakeholders, and the strategies and tools that work best for meeting their needs as well as gaining their trust and cooperation. At the same time, update any project plans that can be improved given what you now know. Plans were not meant to be set in stone but rather to be improved upon as additional information becomes available.
Here are a few strategies developing your Stakeholder Analysis:
Information is the key to success. Use the Stakeholder Analysis to structure your information gathering, record the information you learn, and advise you on actions that will result in the greatest chances of project success.
I welcome any and all thoughts or experiences you have had in working with stakeholders.
Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Let’s face it – we are in the profession of project management because we love challenges. Challenges are what makes our blood boil. Otherwise, why would be sign up for a job whose nature is “unique” and “temporary”? I could go a step further and say that many of us like to be the hero. I’ll admit it, my favorite days are days that a potentially large fire was extinguished or avoided. However, our profession is fraught with the potential for challenges outside our experience, understanding, responsibility, or ability. As hard as it is to admit when this type of challenge as come our way, I will explain why it is essential that we are prepared to communicate and work with our project stakeholders, as well as our peers, to ensure a successful project outcome.
Even us project managers are human. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you. You are not likely to be judged because an issue has come your way, but you will be judged if that issue has a long term or fatal consequence on the project. I believe in the adage that the best managers hire people smarter than themselves. We also need to keep in mind that those above us in the organization got there for a reason. Don’t let pride get in the way of leveraging the great resources that you have around you when a challenge is presented.
Those around you likely have information that can assist you in working the issue. Hearing what is happening may prompt getting these valuable tidbits that otherwise would not be available. Here you may learn the root cause of the problem so you can address the heart of the matter. Perhaps you will get valuable advice on how to work with a particular problem stakeholder. Whatever it is, information will provide you greater understanding to resolve the issue better and faster.
There are very few true unique experiences in the world. While something may be a new experience to you, chances are one of your peers or stakeholders have been in a similar position. Being able to tap into the collective history of your stakeholders is a very valuable asset. Unless they hear what you are experiencing, they will not know to share their similar experiences and what they learned as a result. You will be robbing yourself of a chance to learn from experiences of others.
The project goals are the goals of your stakeholders. It is for the good of the order that stakeholders offer support in terms of empathy and assistance when the going gets tough. However, empathy and assistance will not be available if you are not willing to communicate the need. You are more likely to hear “what can I do to help” if that person knows it is needed and it would be appreciated. Finding and taking support to resolve a challenge will make you a better project manager.
Avoiding, resolving and mitigating issues is hard and long work. You need to be able to share information on issues in order to be recognized for these efforts. Otherwise you run the risk that stakeholders thinking you have been neglecting the project in entirety, when in reality tasks were deferred as an issue was being worked. Don’t give away the opportunity to question the value you have brought to the project. Besides, you deserve an “atta-boy” (or girl) for a job well done.
I will conclude with this final thought.
‘Do not waste my time with telling me how good you are. You were hired because I know you are good. Tell me the barriers the project has so that I know where my assistance is needed.’ Vivek Kundra, US CIO, Keynote PMI Global Congress October 10, 2010
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This week I gave a presentation to a group of people who made up the governance stakeholders of a newly initiated, multi-agency, federally funded project. The presentation was developed to be generic and geared towards a large, diverse audience that may include a mix of sponsors and project managers from different organizations and different projects. There was an unforeseen advantage to giving a general sponsorship presentation to a specific group that I wanted to share.
The discussion at the presentation was among individuals with a vested interest in the governance of the upcoming project. They were able to review general the definitions, responsibilities, and recommendations within the presentation and have candid conversations about the needs for this project. It helped open the minds and the discussion to who should be invited on the Steering Committee, how the sponsors could work together to complement each other and acknowledge competing interests in the project, and helped give light to what they will need in selecting a project manager to help the project succeed. The downside was I had to cut the presentation short because we ran out of time, but given the work and discussion that did happen, I’m okay with that.
The point in posting this is to say that by presenting sponsorship in a way that promotes discussion of the concepts with all of the governing stakeholders allowed that group to discuss their needs rather than being told what the needed to do. For me, their discussion was validation that they understood the roles of the sponsors and steering committee, and how they could set the project up for success.