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Project managers often face numerous conflicts when managing both internal and external stakeholders in a project. The difference in the perspective of how stakeholders work drives the behaviors that can create challenging situations for project managers in which indirectly, may even derail a project. This article provides insight on how to manage and understand both internal and external stakeholders to ensure a successful project.
Stakeholder Management is one of the key aspects in a project that requires
special attention from the project manager. The term special attention is used due to the various differences in opinions coming from each stakeholder who can directly or indirectly affect the success of the project. The project manager quite often fails to understand or misinterprets the actual requirements coming from the relevant stakeholders. And sometimes, Project Managers simply cannot meet the requests from important stakeholders nor entertain any
special requests .
This paper recommends some of the key practices that can be used effectively to establish and manage stakeholder relationships successfully from the beginning to the end of the project. Some of the key areas that a project manager needs to adhere to while managing stakeholders are as below:
i. Identification of Stakeholders
ii. Stakeholder Register
iii. Stakeholders Power/Interest Grid
iv. Stakeholder Engagement Management
Just before we go into the details of best practices, let us first understand and define the term, stakeholder.
A stakeholder is a person, group of people, or an organization involved in a project, or affected by the project’s outcome. Stakeholders are individuals and organizations that have secured a position of interest in the project. The involvement and input of stakeholders help to define, clarify, change, and contribute to the triple constraints and most importantly, the success of the project. To ensure the project is successful, the project manager needs to identify stakeholders early in the project, determine their needs and expectations, and manage and influence those expectations over the course of the project.
First and foremost, we need to identify the stakeholders involved in the project as it’s very critical for a project manager to identify the requirements, needs, interest and authority vested in each stakeholder and other related matters at the very initial stage. Stakeholders can be divided into two groups; internal and external. Internal stakeholders refers to project sponsors, project teams, support staff and others while external stakeholders refers to project’s customers, competitors, suppliers, and other external groups that are potentially involved in the project. Every project manager needs to ensure that these two groups’ roles and responsibility do not overlap. They should also be reminded that identifying a stakeholder is an iterative process as there will be some stakeholders leaving and some coming on board during the projects’ life cycle.
Managing internal stakeholders, to a certain extend can be considered less problematic compared to managing external stakeholders. One of the many reasons is because of the impact external stakeholders have in the organization. For example, the external stakeholders are not employees of the company hence they are free from some of the constraints that may normally be imposed on the employees of the company. Another potential problem has to do with solving conflicting interests between stakeholders by taking into account their level of influence on the project.
A stakeholder register is a document that should contain all the basic information on all the stakeholders who are involved in a project which can be classified into:
Should contain the stakeholders’ name, position, roles and responsibilities and contact information.
Should contain information to determine if the stakeholder is internal or external to the project and also if the stakeholder is ¹ supportive, ²resistant, ³neutral, ⁴leading or
⁵unaware of the project as per PMBOK.
Should contain the stakeholders’ major requirements and expectations, and phases of the project in which stakeholders have the most interest in as not all stakeholders will be required for all the phases of the project.
Stakeholder Influence Level:
Should contain information of influence/ interest level that a stakeholder has on the project. This can be elaborated in detail by using the Power/Interest Grid™ as per best practices.
Stakeholder Power/Interest Grid
A power/interest grid can be used to group stakeholders based on their level of authority and their level of concern (interest) for the project’s output. The matrix below can be used to gauge the most influential and most impacted stakeholder groups so that a focused stakeholder management strategy and plan can be developed and executed. Once the Power/Interest Gris is obtained, it can be added into the Stakeholder Register for reference.
Stakeholder Engagement Management
Stakeholder engagement is key to the success of a project and a project manager plays an important role in ensuring that stakeholders are engaged at all times. As Will Rogers says, “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” What this means is that if the project manager fails to control the level of stakeholder engagement from the start, even if the project is progressing well, it tends to fail as potential complications might arise. Project managers can’t control the stakeholders but can control their engagement level in a given project; they can ensure all stakeholders are actively involved in relevant project activities rather than just attending and acting as an observer. Project managers should have interactive dialogues with stakeholders using the agreed mode of communication and establish schedules schedules that have activities related to each stakeholder. This ensures that the stakeholders don’t have responses such as “I don’t know” or “I’m not aware” when the deliverables are expected from them.
Project managers are often faced with challenges; especially when managing stakeholder requests. At times, they are unable to entertain or execute all the requests made to them. The project manager, together with all stakeholders, needs to commit to a number of critical elements to ensure a solid working relationship that will lead to project success; such as confirming commitment stakeholder commitment, agreeing on project goals, objectives, vision, and even communication methods.
Project Managers must learn to identify, understand, and work with a variety of stakeholders. Suggestions for handling these situations include the following:
Be clear and take a stand with the project elements such as scope, budget and schedule from the start of the project.
Explain the consequences that might happen when a stakeholder submits a request beyond the agreed upon scope.
Have a contingency plan to avoid any surprises.
Ensure stakeholders do not go beyond their level of power/influence, consideration of the impact to the project is important.
¹supportive- stakeholder is aware of the project and supportive of changes beneficial to the project’s success.
²resistant- stakeholder is aware of the project yet resistant to changes.
³neutral- stakeholder is aware of the project but neither supportive or resistant. More of an observer.
⁴leading- stakeholder is aware of the project and actively engaged to ensure the project’s success.
⁵unaware – stakeholder has no information about the project.
Muralitharan Ramalingam, Mohana Dass Visvanathan Nair, Foong Mei Yuen, Sarawanan Nadras
Corporate Program Management, MIMOS BERHAD
Technology Park Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tags: Stakeholder Management
Does this sound like a job you’d want?
You’ll be managing a diverse group of people from a variety of departments. They each have different areas of expertise and different ways of getting work done. The people don’t report to you, and you’ll have little or no authority to direct their performance. However, you’ll be held accountable for the team’s output. To accomplish the team’s goals, you’ll be expected, among other things, to motivate, facilitate, encourage, communicate effectively, build trust, and resolve conflict.
This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, does it?
When leading a team of your peers, these are typical challenges.
Leadership is a complex subject. There are visionary leaders, empowering leaders, charismatic leaders, and values-based leaders. For each of these styles, there are situations where that style is and is not effective. However, the one thing that traditional leaders can usually rely on, regardless of their style or situation, is legitimate power. When things get tough, a traditional leader has the status and position to demand how work is done.
But when you’re in charge of a team of your peers, your level of authority is often nonexistent. You might have as little status as the person to whom the work has been given – but is that enough to lead what is essentially a horizontal collaboration?
To lead a multifunctional peer group, you must have all the characteristics of great leaders – and then some. Here are the key skills you’ll need to succeed.
Learn to lead discussions and proactively manage different personalities. You never know what past experiences – good and bad – team members have had with one another.
Whatever the history, your role as leader starts with setting a positive foundation for the team’s interactions:
Leaders who give power to others can be very influential and motivating. When leadersuse their power to help others accomplish great things, people often want to work very hard for them.
When you empower someone, you’re essentially saying that you trust that person. When people feel trusted, they may naturally want to take on more responsibility for the outcome, because they’ll share in the spotlight when success is achieved.
Empowerment, then, is a great motivator, and it can be used to recognize the efforts of team members. When leading your peers, be creative with reward and recognition – sometimes assigning a task or granting a level of authority can serve as a very effective reward.
Rules, regulations and a heavy-handed approach can cause resentment and non-compliance in a team of peers. Use discretion, and learn to adapt to the changing environment – this can be critical.
You won’t always be the expert, and you won’t always know what to do. With a flexible leadership style, you can often deal with changing circumstances without compromising your leadership role. If you rely on a rigid structure and style, you may find yourself challenged often, and you may waste your energy fighting interpersonal battles instead of accomplishing goals.
Essentially, you need to help your team adjust to changes in direction, circumstance, and priority. Whenever you get a cross-section of people working together, there can be times of ambiguity and uncertainty. When you’re open to change, your team will see that, and they’ll be more likely to also accept change.
Few teams would get very far without goals. Certainly you need goals to point you in the right direction and to evaluate performance. When you bring together a diverse set of people, having a clear direction is even more essential.
All team members will likely have their own perspectives. These could lead your team down very different paths – if there’s no central direction to follow. Different paths can also cause conflict around resources and priorities.
You can avoid many of these difficulties with clear goal setting, based on agreed and valuable objectives. It’s much easier to keep people working together effectively if objectives are clear, if it’s obvious how the team’s output will help its customer, and if disputes are resolved by referring to the team’s goals.
From then on, it’s important that you develop an implementation plan and remain focused on your targets.
Each team member usually has his or her own regular job to do in addition to the team’s specific tasks. This means that commitment to your team may be weakened from many directions. As the leader, and the one who is ultimately accountable, concentrate on getting the support and resources your team needs to do the job well.
Focus on these three key areas:
Leading a team of your peers is a definite challenge, and it can put all of your leadership skills to the test. From setting goals to involving team members in decision making to creating a climate of openness and honesty, you need to have it all – and more.
If you remember to put your team’s needs first, and if you work very hard to protect their interests, you’ll prove to them that you’re committed to and passionate about their success. When you demonstrate that you believe in the value of their work, and when you’re willing to work through any obstacles you encounter, your team will respect your integrity – and they’ll want to work hard with you, and for you, to achieve results.
Culled from mindtools
In 1965, Martin Seligman and his colleagues were doing research on classical conditioning, or the process by which an animal or human associates one thing with another. In the case of Seligman’s experiment, he would ring a bell and then give a light shock to a dog. After a number of times, the dog reacted to the shock even before it happened: as soon as the dog heard the bell, he reacted as though he’d already been shocked.
But then something unexpected happened. Seligman put each dog into a large crate that was divided down the middle with a low fence. The dog could see and jump over the fence if necessary. The floor on one side of the fence was electrified, but not on the other side of the fence. Seligman put the dog on the electrified side and administered a light shock. He expected the dog to jump to the non-shocking side of the fence.
Instead, the dogs lay down. It was as though they’d learned from the first part of the experiment that there was nothing they could do to avoid the shocks, so they gave up in the second part of the experiment.
Seligman described their condition as learned helplessness, or not trying to get out of a negative situation because the past has taught you that you are helpless.
Its being wonderful, indeed understanding that you are there to read my thoughts everytime. If you noticed, I have not made a post on this blog for a while, it was due to the fact that we are trying to upgrade this account.
Right Now I am pleased to inform you that starting from December 1 2014, this blog would have successfully completed its route and assignment. I am sorry but there is the need to move ahead and you will miss nothing because both the old posts and the new ones can be read on The New Seun Ajibade Blog(Please Bookmark it www.seunajibade.com) I want to impact more, to do more and show you that more than ever, we All are on a Journey of continuous improvement!
I Love you. Greetings from Gloria and the Baby
Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo (popularly known as D’banj, born 9 June 1980) is a Nigerian singer-songwriter, harmonica player, and businessman. He has won several music awards, including the awards for Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2007,Artist of the Year at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2009, Best International Act: Africa at the BET Awards 2011, and Best-selling African Artist at the 2014 World Music Awards. He adopted the stage name D’banj, a combination of his first name Dapo and his surname Oyebanjo.
On a personal note however, I was not much of a fan of his till tonight; If anything, I am more of one of his biggest critics, That was till I watched his Ted talk and I see why there is so much depth in his songs beyond shallow lyrics and meaningless titles. Here is the story behind one of his songs.
This blew me away;
This should be our reasoning, this should be our thoughts as African youths, not meaningless squabbles for vain glory!
Such as what I recently read. Which was research from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. This research found that 70% to 80% of new businesses fail within their first year.
And while this was frustrating enough to read, the research further stated that half of those companies which do survive the first year will fail within the next four years.
Now, let’s turn to the cause of this failure. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the number one cause of this failure is lack of business planning.
What this essentially means is this: entrepreneurs and business owners don’t plan to fail; rather, they fail to plan (which causes them to fail).
In my view, there are two types of business plans. The first is the business plan you must create when you start your company. The purpose of this plan is to ensure you have fully thought through your venture.