Managing Multiple Stakeholders
While working with lots of different people and lots of organisations is one of the best parts of consulting and project management, we would be lying if we said that trying to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders at the same time isn't challenging.Multiple stakeholders means having to manoeuvre around different; organisational cultures, objectives, priorities, systems and many personalities and their individual agendas.
In a short space of time, we have to try to learn the lay of the land, gain people's trust, identify those with influence, gain a consensus, manage the politics and keep the project on track without losing anyone along the way.
When it comes to project management, we know that one size doesn’t fit all, but the following tips have served us well.
1. Identify all stakeholders at the start of the assignment and where appropriate make contact.
There's nothing worse than to be months into a project to find that key stakeholders have been left out of key decisions and meetings.A good tool for this is the classic stakeholder analysis which should be reviewed on a regular basis.
2. Do your research.
Based on your stakeholder analysis there will be some key stakeholders who may warrant some background research in preparation for your introductory meeting and general background context to the project.
This may start with some information from the project sponsor, a review of their annual reports/business plan, a review of their website and a basic internet search. Indicating some level of awareness to your stakeholder will start to build trust and help you to position the proposition.
Before meeting or communicating with your stakeholders, be crystal clear on the overall objective from the project sponsors and your stakeholder's point of view.
Being objective in this stage will prepare you for any opposition or resistance. Turning up to a meeting when you haven’t considered the impacts on budgets, resources, time constraints or the current political landscape will put a halt to your relationships before you have even started.
3. Meet in person.
Yes it’s time-consuming, but it’s a must in the beginning. Make meetings short, communicate the objective of the meeting, send papers in advance and always follow up with a thank you. A thank you goes a long way!!!
4. Lastly, be transparent and consistent in all that you do and persevere.