Stakeholders & Your Project

Happy Monday! I hope you enjoyed last week’s post on developing a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). It wasn’t ground breaking stuff and there are other variations and approaches, but that was simple and has worked for me through the years.  This week, I would like to stay on another Project Management topic/responsibility…Stakeholder Analysis.

I don’t think I subscribe to this level of commitment and teamwork, but you can certainly get a lot done when others are supporting.  Here is the video of the week.

The PMBOK 4th Edition defines stakeholders as follows: Persons or organization (e.g., customers, sponsors, the performing organization, or the public), who are actively involved in the project or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project.  It goes on to say “Stakeholders may also exert influence over the project, its deliverables , and the project team members.”

I think this is a great definition, but the there is one aspects that may be misleading and PMs should never take for granted…the word Actively.  In my experience, some of the most influential stakeholders are not active on the project at all. The reason I need to translate the project plan into a nice Gantt & pull together a Project Dashboard is for these exact stakeholders…the one’s that are not active. They need as much info crammed into a quick, concise, and thorough update because they are not active.  Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the value adds of the project manager but I don’t want you to think that if someone is not active that they are not a stakeholder.  Check out this great 5 min Podcast from a tremendous Project Management Executive, Ricardo Viana Vargas “The Project Manager is not the Project Secretary(I think you can even earn 1 PDU or so)

Many PMs are consultants and coming into projects with little knowledge of the organization, so this is a tremendous exercise for us and one that needs to be done and done early in your process…

  1. Understanding who the power players are early on will help you develop your approach out of the gate…they will know who the other key players are, the key issues, the political climate of the org, the requirements, etc.  With this information you can then develop your ‘plan of attack’ so you aren’t wandering around the organization aimlessly.
  2. Engaging the key decision makers/influencers early helps you gain trust and buy-in.  It lets them feel a part and responsible.  If they feel they have contributed to the development of the approach and project, then they will have some vested interest to continue supporting.  Also, by getting them involved early, they will also feel responsible for the success of the initiative…no one wants a failure tied to their name.

There are some wonderful resources in this space, so I won’t reinvent the wheel on this (check out the links below), but I do want to mention a few things to keep in mind…

  1. Do perform a stakeholder analysis…do it early and don’t just wing-it.
  2. Interview the key stakeholders…sponsor, dept heads, organization experts (influencers)
    1. Know what their role in the org is…what their interest in the project is…how they prefer to receive information/update, etc
  3. Interview the team and any other ancillary players
    1. Same as above, but this level will more likely be those on your team. So know about their personal pushes and pulls, how they like to work, their thoughts on project management approaches in the past, etc.
  4. Rank Them – There a lot of ways to rank your stakeholders, most leverage a quad chart/grid or sorts. The following are 2 types:
    1. Power-Interest Chart – Groups stakeholders by their level or power/authority and their interest in the project (right)
    2. Power-Influence Chart – Groups stakeholders by their level of power/authority and their involvement level with the project
  5. Develop a plan to manage them – With this information in hand, you now know how to keep them happy (smiles).  I know it isn’t that easy, but you have the insight into what their interests and concerns are with the project.  You know how they prefer to receive the updates of the project and who needs that extra attention.  Lastly, you also know how to optimize your filter for the project noise that is impending.

Stakeholders can make the project run smooth or break the project all together.  It is your job to figure them out and get their buy-in, as well as maintain it throughout the courseof your project.



8 thoughts on “Stakeholders & Your Project

  1. Elisabeth:

    I am so excited for you! I love hearing about other folk’s success and to be a slight part of that is also rewarding. I am glad I could provide some value…we write these blogs and folks may repost, tweet, or even comment but this feedback is gold.



  2. Kelly:
    Thought I’d check back in with you and let you know that my Stakeholder Analysis was a huge hit. I used the template on your website (the last link in your list of resources) combined with one that I downloaded from Triple Constraints. On Twitter, you asked for feedback about the scoring system on your template. Frankly, I found that the scoring system on your template was great: it was simple enough that it actually helped us to come up with a better stakeholder management plan.
    My boss now thinks I am the cat’s meow. (I love the internet.)
    Isn’t it scary when PMBOK is (gasp!) useful?? I know…!

  3. Glad you liked the video…every post tries to add some humor with a video.

    I have followed both approaches, but usually lean towards a grouping of folks (i.e. – Mgmt Comitte, Project Team, etc). If you look at the link above (in the resources section) for a “Basic Stakeholder Template”, you will see a column for specific/individual title in that template…that helps me learn who is who when I am getting started in a new org.

    I recently did the same exercise in my department. We have been following the same project management process, templates from when we were IBM and designed for Hardware Development. Doesn’t suit the Services Development space and certainly not some of the agile/lean six sigma aspects we are incorporating into the standard waterfall.

    If you go to that link mentioned, you will see some other templates. (Sorry for the self-promotion) As part of my effort I reviewed about 2 dozen organizations/sites and their templates (University of Texas, Princeton, The Center for Disease Control,, Project 1-2-3, The PM Hut, etc etc) to come up with those. I also leveraged my 10 years in organizations such as Siemens Business Services, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, etc to add/tweak the templates.

    That site and my business will go-live in early 2011…laying the ground work in the coming months.

  4. Great post, and timely. I’ve spent the day trying to do an analysis on an internal process improvement project, and it’s far from a straightforward exercise. (Quite painful actually.)
    Here’s my question: do you name the stakeholders by name, example “Joe VP Eng” “Jill President” “Bob VP HR” or group them together (eg “President” “Management comittee” “Department Heads” “Employees”). In the former approach, I’d group “Joe” and “Bob” together as “Management Committee” and devise a strategy to manage them as a group, even though Bob and Joe might have very different styles and issues.
    PS LOVE the YouTube video. :)

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