How to Manage Stakeholders Expectations

ProjectManager.com

Project managers must, at times, cater to the divergent expectations of multiple stakeholders. In this video with our very own Jennifer Bridges, PMP, learn how to manage stakeholder expectations and ensure they align with your project.

In Review: Project Stakeholder Management Plan

First, Jennifer pointed out, it’s important to identify who the stakeholders are. Not everyone is a stakeholder in your project. The formal stakeholders are usually documented in your charter and/or project planning. Anyone else with feedback needs to be redirected to the appropriate stakeholder, not you.

Stakeholders are the ones that you as a project manager answer to, so once you know who they are, then look to them for guidance. Remember that Stakeholders typically have multiple projects they’re working on. They rely on you to document, manage and deliver for them.

Jennifer also pointed out that stakeholders aren’t infallible. They can be inaccurate or out of date, not intentionally, but this will have an impact on your project.

Related: What is Recency Bias and How Does it Affect Stakeholders?

To keep track of all these variables, Jennifer offered this helpful advice, outlined below:

  • Document the stakeholders
  • Enforce Process
  • Provide frequent and regular status reports
  • Dispel myths

Follow this simple advice and you’ll have managed your stakeholders’ expectations. Better still, you’ll have pinned those expectations to a schedule that is aligned with your project.

Pro-Tip: Stakeholders want to be in the loop. If you can touch base with them regularly and ask questions about the progress of the project, whether it’s meeting their expectations, you address their concerns before they become your concerns.

Take it Further: Managing stakeholders is but one more aspect of the leadership expect of a project manager, think of it as responding positively and effectively to change.

Thanks for watching!

Transcription

Hello. I’m Jennifer Whitt, Director of ProjectManager.com.

Welcome to our white board session today on how to manage stakeholder expectations. One of the biggest complaints we have from project managers are how can we ever manage the expectations of all these stakeholders? It’s just too much to keep track of. Well, we want to give a few reminders today, some cues that may tip you off that maybe expectations are out of alignment and some things you can do for prevention.

So let’s look at some reminders. I want to remind everyone that not everyone is a stakeholder. So many times when a project is initiated, there are different people within the organization, other client members, other team members, other vendor partners who try to give impact and feedback and request changes and we need to remember they aren’t necessarily stakeholders. Typically all organizations that are impacted by the project have stakeholders who are represented on the project and members of the change control board. But they have a representative that they go to that they answer to for the organization, so not everyone is a stakeholder.

The formal stakeholders are documented, typically in your charter and/or your project planning. So your stakeholders, they will be identified by the name, the role they’re playing on the project and the organization they’re representing. So those are the true stakeholders. Anyone else from those organizations who have feedback need to be redirected to their stakeholders for them to provide the input through them.

Number two they are, they being the stakeholders. They’re who the project manager answers to and again they’re documented so they’re the people that you look to for guidance.

Number three a reminder that the stakeholders typically have multiple projects going on so they’re attending a million meetings, they have a million tasks they’re responsible for, they’re looking at a lot of reports trying to make decisions. So they rely on you, the project manager to keep things documented, managed and delivered.

Number four they can get things confused. It’s just a principle. With all those things going on, it’s easy to get things confused. Not because they intentionally want to get things confused, but they have so much going on that it’s hard to keep things in order and on track. Again that’s why they need the project manager.

Number five they can make statements, they being the stakeholders; can make statements that are inaccurate or out of date. Again, not intentionally, but if things continue to change and go through the change control board and decisions are made that cause changes, they can merely be making statements based off of old information if they are not kept up-to-date.

So I wanted to give some of these reminders because many times when things start happening during the course of a project, then people run around with different myths or misinformation. So what are some of the cues that tip you off that expectations from your stakeholders are not being met? If you have stakeholder or people within the organization that are saying, “Well I thought this project was going to be delivered last month.” Or “I thought this person was going to deliver something.” Or the he or she said comment, “Well she said that we were supposed to get IT to do a certain task” or “this never works” or “IT never delivers” or “we’re always late.” If you hear some of these cues, then again they’re cues that somewhere there’s a misalignment, something that you need to address as a project manager.

What is prevention for some of the expectations being out of alignment? Well we feel like you can start things out right and keep them on track along the way in the project. And here it’s true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So here are some things we found helpful.

Number one again, document the stakeholders. So document the stakeholders formally in your charter or your project plan so you know their name, their role in the organization they’re representing. And actually know the stakeholders. Many times I talk with project managers who have stakeholders and they say, “Well, we don’t even know who they are, we’ve never seen them.” They’ve never talked to them.

Well remember, they’re who you answer to, they are the people who own the project, they’re the people who fund the project and they’re the people who are the decision makers for the project.

So you as the project manager need to know them. The best way we know how to do that is to interview them. If you’re there locally with them then it’s great to have a coffee meeting or just an informal meeting, just a few minutes or even if you say, “Well my team is remote, or they’re in another country.” Well, Skype is good for that. You can Skype or have a phone conversation, but really get to know them. Get to know their organization, get to know what issues they have, what assumptions they’re making, what concerns or what they value the most in the project.

So really get to know what makes them tick and what will throw them off track. Inform your team of this information about the stakeholders. Get your team to know your stakeholders. Your team members need to know, not just the tasks they’re responsible for, but they need to know who they’re working for, who the client is, who the stakeholders are. Things about the project that are important, that will help them keep that in mind as the project goes along.

Then set up an enforce process. It’s important as a project manager to keep processes in align so when other people in the organization, maybe either a project manager or your team members and let them know that there is a process, a change management process. So if feedback needs to come through the project or decisions need to be made it needs to go through the formal change management process. Again, knowing that even though you enforce a process sometimes you have to tweak your process, so keeping that up-to-date and keeping everyone within the project and outside the project on track.

Then providing status frequently, regularly, up-to-date in the format that is appropriate for the different person, remembering that executives require a different level of status than the team members. The team members may need more detail on their task, the executives may need more details about the overall status of the project and the health of the project.

Then touch base regularly and ask questions of your stakeholders. Contact them again, keep in constant contact and touch base and say, “How is it going, what do you think about the project?” “Is it meeting your expectations?” So by asking questions you can see what concerns they have instead of getting in an executive meeting and you being the last to know that you’re going to be hit with something that your team has missed or you as the project manager have missed.

And then, important to dispel myths. Because the stakeholders do have multiple projects, so many things going on, it’s hard for them to keep track of, there are different people within the project, outside the project giving information and that’s where myths come about. Where people make assumptions, misstatements about things, so it’s important to constantly dispel those myths along the way and keep people saying truth about what’s actually happening in the project.

So we feel like this is the ounce of prevention that will save you a pound of cure for keeping your stakeholder expectations aligned and on track. If you’re looking for a tool that can help you keep your stakeholder expectations on track and in alignment, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.com.

Related Posts

Deliver Your Projects
On Time and Under Budget

Start planning your projects.

Start 30-Day Free Trial