How to Manage Stakeholders During a Crisis
If you get into a project crisis, then use these tips and it is to manage your stakeholders…
Hi. I’m Devin Deen, Content Director at Projectmanager.com. Today’s topic is a bit of a thorny one. How to manage your stakeholders in a crisis. Now if you’re here, let’s face it you are going to be in a world of hurt.
There are certain things that you can do whilst you’re in a crisis to manage your stakeholders to make sure that your company’s reputation remains intact. Your project team reputation remains intact. You actually deliver the project that you have been hired to deliver. And lastly and importantly your personal reputation also remains in tact.
The key goal to remember when you are managing through a crisis is that you need to maintain the confidence of your stakeholders. Once you lose their confidence all bets are off with regard to you being able to deliver that product successfully.
I’ve got a few points that I’ve learned through some of my hard lessons, with the scars on my back to prove it.
One of the first things you want to do in a crisis is you want to anoint one of the key stakeholders to be the key point of contact for the rest of the stakeholder group. You are going to be there in the trenches managing with the team trying to get them through this crisis.
If you also have to manage upwards and outwards to all the stakeholders, you are going to have a real difficult challenge on your hands to balance all those balls in the time frames that you need to. So get one of those stakeholders to be your key point of contact through the crisis. Get them to sign up to it and they are going to be the voice for you to the rest of the stakeholder group during the crisis.
Get your boss’ help. Don’t be fearful and talk with your boss. Laying on the line and saying, look boss, I need your help on this one. Can you please go out for a coffee or have a steak with so and so on the stakeholders or steering committee.
You really need to improve relationships during that period and manage those relationships very carefully. Your boss is a vital part of that. Please bring him in to it, or her in to it. Don’t be afraid of fessing up to the crisis that you are in and enlist the support of your boss.
Approach him or her with a plan. Bring them in to the program and get them to help out in managing your stakeholders. Get a coach within the stakeholder group. I always find it really useful to have one of the stakeholders who is on the inside pulling for you and your team to deliver.
You can bounce ideas off them. They know their colleagues more and better than you do because they are working with them on a day to day basis. Ask them and invite them to be your coach during the crisis. Invite them to be a sounding board for you before you bring solutions and ideas back to the stakeholder community.
They could be the litmus test for you before you get some solution ideas out there to the rest of the stakeholders. Certainly somebody on your bench. They are still working for the client but they will be a coach for you and they can help you navigate your way through the land mines and the crisis.
Agree the decision points and the dates and success criteria in advance with the stakeholders. In a crisis it’s like the sky is falling on you the whole way. You got to make sure that the stakeholders don’t take the opportunity to change focus or move the goal post whilst you are in the middle of managing that crisis.
Get them to agree what the successful outcome is from that crisis and agree the decision points they must need to make if your way of managing through the crisis is not necessarily working the way you want it to, to achieve those results.
You need to agree to those decision criteria and decision points and decision dates up in advance with the stakeholders before you get in to the middle of that crisis.
And lastly and most importantly is managed communications. You’ve got to manage what goes out to the stakeholder community. Now you’ve anointed your key point of contact to be the person that is going to be the voice for you to the rest of the stakeholders but you’ve got to manage that communications upward.
Don’t let your project team have one on ones with the head of marketing or the head of sales or the head of the technology group with out you knowing about it.
An accidental slip of the tongue by one of your project team members about a particular thorny issue or a date you are trying to achieve to the head of marketing, the head of sales or the head of technology group can have a disastrous and monumental negative impact on your project. You’ll have to be doing damage control to those individuals and others about that accidental slip of the tongue.
Make sure you can manage the communications very, very closely especially when you are in crisis. On the projects that I’ve managed that happened to get in to crisis I’ve applied these points early and often. The key thing I was using the points to do is to drive and retain the confidence of my stakeholders.
I think if you do these as well you also will have a successful outcome in managing you project and managing your stakeholders whilst you are in crisis.
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