What to Build Effective Stakeholder Relationships? Get Them Involved!!

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We know that stakeholders are those individuals who are actively involved in our projects and/or have a valued interest in the outcome of those projects.  To put it in other words, they are the individuals who will influence or/and be influenced by your project. However, if you’ve ever managed a project then I’m sure you know that even though those stakeholders may be involved in our projects or are interested – be it financially or otherwise – in the outcome or success of our projects, that doesn’t mean they will be involved or engaged along the way…even when it may be in their best interest to do so.


So, with these key and sometimes fringe individuals…how involved in the project do you want them to be?  The answer really is….”it depends.”  On what?  On what they mean to the outcome of the project, what they mean to the project, and how much you need their input on an ongoing basis during the project. Here are some useful tips for getting them involved:

  1. Assign them tasks:The most obvious way to get stakeholders involved and keep them involved is to assign them tasks and keep assigning them tasks throughout the project.  The key is to keep them accountable for project progress by continuous involvement on assigned tasks – and accountability for reporting task progress week in and week out.  No one wants to be the resource who is holding up the project and reporting tasks progress to the customer.
  2. Status report them to death: You want stakeholders involved continuously?  Never skip over them when reporting project status, budget status, change order information, issue lists and resolutions, and project schedule updates.  By practicing this they will not have any excuses to not know what’s going on with the project and they will be update to date at all times (assuming they are following the information) and are ready to be involved and make decisions whenever is needed.workshop
  3. Involve them in the meetings. On some projects stakeholders sit on the sidelines, get involved only at key points in the project or sit and judge as the project solution is deployed.  If you want to keep your key stakeholders engaged during and throughout the project rather not at all or just sporadically, then make sure they are at the meetings.  And I’m referring to the key weekly meetings with the project customer where the detailed project status is reported and discussed, where the latest issues are reviewed and addressed and risks are analyzed.  This is where the project really meets the pavement and stakeholder involvement can be critical for key decision-making and forward progress.
  4. Make the project as visible as possible. Driven professionals want to be noticed. Or at least be involved in things that get noticed.  So, you want your stakeholders to stay involved?  Make the project as high profile as possible. It may not be a long-term project with a high dollar value that is mission critical to the organization – those get noticed no matter what you usually will not require any action on your part to get lots of attention. On those smaller projects you can still get your project noticed by presenting it to upper management at key milestones, including executive management on the status report distribution list, and putting out organization wide press releases at key points in the project. Those stakeholders that want notoriety will stay involved because you have now made your project a highly visible one in the organization.                                                            Summary

    To summarize all  – in order to best keep your project stakeholders involved, you need to keep them busy.  That is a logical action on anything, but often times we get busy managing our project teams and we fail to take advantage of the skill set of our knowledgeable and experienced stakeholders.  We may report status to them – often not all of them – but we overlook the fact that we can make use of their talents AND keep them engaged by following practices such as these that I’ve discussed in this article.


    I believe that now you understand these terms; however, if you still have some doubts, write in the comment box. I am ready to discuss.


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Identify Project Stakeholders (SH’s)

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If you are preparing for the PMI-RMP® examination, you must read the 5th of PMBOK® and there is a new knowledge area for Project Stakeholder Management. So, as long as PMI is highlighting the importance of Stakeholders, you, as a future Risk Manager, must pay the prompt attention.

The first step is to identify the potential Stakeholders (SH’s) of the project by working side by side with the Project Manager. According to PMI, a stakeholder is: “an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project” (PMBoK 5th ed, p.30). So everyone associated with your project is a stakeholder and we need to be aware of their existence.
Formulating a detailed profile of each stakeholder, can be difficult and should be approached seriously. The immediate stakeholders are easy enough to find:
a. The most important stakeholder is the Project Sponsor which has approved the project and it is important that he maintains enthusiasm for the project throughout its lifecycle.

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b. Another important stakeholder is one that we tend to ignore in our analysis: the project manager. Is he getting the project team excited about the project and are regularly reinforcing the overall vision? A project is possible to fail if the project manager is not 100% behind the work.

c. Moreover, the people of project team itself are vital stakeholders: they are the ones that do the work, so does it have any meaning for them? Or are they just doing this for a pay cheque?

d. At least but not last, Customers and End-users are obvious stakeholders. Managing customers can be tricky, as we have a tendency to encourage them to dream up too many requirements. Listening to everyone’s requests can pull a product in too many different directions. End users should definitely be involved in any project where there is a large user-interface component.

e. More difficult to identify are the external stakeholders. The project manager needs to be aware of any regulatory body that controls this sector and to learn about their requirements for the project’s deliverables.

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f. Other potential stakeholders are those who are aware of the project but are not sure what it is about. This is a common problem with automation projects – people carrying out manual tasks often fear for their future when high-tech investments are rumoured.

Once you have identified your stakeholders, then it is useful to create a power/interest grid to highlight their relative importance to the project. It is useful to ask what can each stakeholder bring to the project and insure that their views and expertise are exploited to the full for the benefit of the project.


Another useful practice is to decide the stakeholders’ attitudes to the project with a tool called the Stakeholder Engagement Assessment Matrix that allows you to plot the current and desired attitude to the project. This tool has 5 categories: unaware, resistant, neutral, supportive and leading. The likes of the sponsor and project manager need to be leading and everyone else should be supportive. It is tempting to be satisfied if a stakeholder is unaware or neutral, but this can lead to trouble down the line.

Stakeholders are often regarded by risk managers as potential risks and that is a reasonable approach to take because a risk is an uncertainty and stakeholders, being people, can change their minds and no longer support the project. For a Risk Manager, every stakeholder must be managed throughout the project and supplied with the specific information that they require. Depending on the individuals involved, SH’s should be engaged in the planning and execution of the project – providing inputs to the decision-making process and even being allowed to make decisions where appropriate.

In summary, stakeholder management is vital and you do not have to be a PMI-RMP® exam candidate to appreciate that. The important thing to remember is that the stakeholders are not necessarily obstacles to the project goals; if treated properly, every one of them has the potential to contribute to the project’s success. You just need to recognize what they can contribute and tap into that potential.

Note: PMI, PMP, and PMBOK Guide are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc