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Improve How You Manage Your Stakeholders

In conversations with project managers I am often told that managing the stakeholders on their projects often takes up much more time than they would expect. For some, they feel like they are herding cats; especially when they need regular input from their stakeholders.

Additionally, a few project managers have mentioned that just when they think they have a stakeholder figured out and know what he/she wants, all of a sudden it’s like they are dealing with an entire different person!  Some of the project managers I speak with just can’t figure out the best way to communicate with their stakeholders…even when they specifically ask how the stakeholders want to be communicated with, it just doesn’t seem to work out.  Many of these project managers have admitted that too often keeping the stakeholders up to date on the project just isn’t the biggest priority they have – usually they are just trying to manage the project to meet the deadline and budget and keep the team moving along to worry about constant communication with stakeholders.

Here are some suggestions to make managing the expectations of the stakeholders and communicating with them just a bit easier for you and the project team.  Try them out on your next project.

  • Be sure to create a stakeholder register with relevant information about your stakeholders, including: name, title/position, contact information, project requirements/expectations, and whether they are internal or external stakeholders.
  • Take the time to meet the stakeholders – ideally in person but by telephone or via email if necessary.  Get to know them and let them get to know you.  This helps to build trust with the stakeholders. This way, if questions or concerns arise in the future, they are comfortable coming to talk to you about them.
    • When you meet with the stakeholders, ask them what concerns they may have about the project.  This enables you to proactively address their current concerns and make them comfortable with you as the project manager.
    • Review your change management plan with the stakeholders.  Explain to them how change requests will be handled and that they will learn about each change request and its potential impact on the project.
  • Develop a communication plan for the stakeholders and share the plan with them.  Let them know how you plan to communicate with them (i.e., regular meetings, via email, conference calls) and how often (i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly).
  • When a problem arises on the project – as they often do! – let the stakeholders know about the problem and the steps being taken to resolve it.  Better they find out from you then learn about a problem on their own.
  • When the project is complete, invite the stakeholders to the lessons learned discussion and the closing of the project.  Get their input on how everything went.  Ask them to celebrate the end of the project with the team.

These simple steps will enable you to improve how you communicate with and manage your stakeholders.

Add to the list!  What have you found successful in managing your stakeholders?  How do you best communicate with the stakeholders on your project?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments field below.  Thanks!