Engage stakeholders all through Project Life

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Engage Stakeholders All Through Project Life

Lukeman Lawal, M.ENG, MNSE, R.ENGR. (COREN) Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria

Good working relationships with stakeholders who have significant influence on the outcomes of a project are vital. Stakeholders are individuals and groups, both inside and outside the organization, who can influence the success of the project, and/or anyone who can be impacted by the project.

Project Managers should have a Stakeholder Engagement plan which includes identification of stakeholders, an assessment of their degree of influence, and an assessment of their favorability toward the project. Use this plan to deliberately build support.

Engage stockholders early and keep them involved through project completion. Be sure you know the business need for the project they support. Work towards aligning the needs of all of the key stakeholders, not just the top few.

It’s always pertinent to find out what the key stakeholders need to become visible and vocal advocates for the project, and how the project can be made to be a win for them, as well as your team.

Once your project plan shows it reflects the needs of the key stakeholders, insist that they demonstrate their commitment by providing the resources needed to support the project. This gives you an army of investors to fight outside stakeholders with no money or services who may want to stop the project.

It is advisable to assign a single point of accountability on the project team for coordinating stakeholder management and to interface with and actively engage key stakeholders at appropriate levels. Create and utilize a Stakeholder Communication plan to capture frequency of communications, content of communication, and type of delivery method. Methods and frequency of contact may differ for each stakeholder.

Schedule an alignment meeting with smaller stakeholders to minimize conflicts between departments. Your stakeholder handler will follow up to ensure critical functions/groups are represented on the core project team, or on the extended project team, as resources.

Review stakeholder standards of success with decision makers at each meeting to ensure alignment remains consistent.

Here are some other suggestions:

• Respect the business needs of stakeholders, even if you don’t agree.

• Ensure confidentiality on sensitive issues to build trust.

• Create an alliance of stakeholders to support your project.

• Get stakeholders actively and meaningfully involved.

• Solicit stakeholder ideas and use their input.

• Keep stakeholders informed.

• Leverage those with positive attitudes and get them invested - visibly if possible.

However, expect setbacks and roadblocks and be ready to address them as they occur. There will always be bumps on the road, so do not put the pressure on yourself or the stakeholders to be perfect. Just deal with these issues as they arise, and learn the lessons they will teach you so you do not have to face them again.

Engaging stakeholders early enough and keeping them involved to the end of project as partners will help you to avoid show stoppers. They may not understand the details of project management, but if you help them meet their business goals they will join you in celebrating excellent project performance.

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