The basis of stakeholder management is to understand who needs what information and when or how often they need it. The information garnered from the stakeholder analysis process provides the foundation for determining how to best interact with stakeholders to satisfy each of their unique project requirements. Developing and executing well planned strategies for communicating and working with each stakeholder greatly improves the chances of project success.
Stakeholders in a project will always have varying levels of influence, expectations and interests however they will all have the potential to impact the project in some way. The primary goal of stakeholder management is to build and maintain positive relationships with stakeholders, develop alliances that foster project success and to keep stakeholders focussed on the project objectives.
One of the key responsibilities for a Project Manager is to communicate effectively with stakeholders and to manage their expectations and perceptions. Stakeholder Management provides the basis for managing the information stakeholders will receive as well as clarifying what feedback is required from stakeholders to the Project Manager.
It’s essential that these strategies are documented by the Project Manager in a document such as a Stakeholder Management Plan. This document needs to provide an overview of how the right information will be provided at the right time to the right stakeholders. It’s important to remember that due to differing levels of power, influence or interest in the project, not all stakeholders will have the same communication requirements.
A Stakeholder Management Plan should contain information such as:
- Desired and current stakeholder engagement levels.
- Scope and impact of the project for each stakeholder or stakeholder group.
- Interrelationships between stakeholders.
- Communication requirements for stakeholders.
- Information to be distributed, including language, format, content, frequency and level of detail.
- Reason for the distribution of information.
- Method for reviewing, updating and refining the Stakeholder Management Plan.
The following are general tips for successful Stakeholder Management.
- Have a no surprises mindset.
- Always be truthful and transparent.
- Understand each stakeholder’s appetite for risk and information.
- Use style of language appropriate for each stakeholder.
- Communicate proactively where possible, especially when managing issues.
- Deliver on your promises.
- Regularly evaluate the stakeholder management process. What has worked well? What needs improvement? Is the plan meeting objectives?
When reviewing and evaluating your stakeholder management activities, put yourself in your stakeholder’s shoes. Would you be happy with the current levels of engagement and the quality, frequency and style of the communications?
No matter how much time and effort is spent planning a project, poor stakeholder management can easily cause a project to fail. By using a systematic approach to Stakeholder Identification, Analysis and Management, a Project Manager can significantly reduce project risk, minimise unforeseen issues and improve their overall chances of project delivery success.