When to Push Back with Project Stakeholders


Project stakeholders have a vested interest and vital input into the project goals and objectives. But they do expect the project manager to inform them about what’s in the project’s best interest. In today’s whiteboard session, Jennifer Bridges, PMP, explores when and how to push back to support your project’s success.

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!

When to Push Back

In Review: When to Push Back with Project Stakeholders

Sometimes you not only need to push back with your stakeholders, Jennifer noted, but they often expect you to! It’s important that project leaders know when is the right time to stand your ground and push back against unrealistic requests.

Jennifer illustrated four common stakeholder situations in which you might have to push back:

  1. Reacting to misinformation. “Someone heard something through the grapevine.”
  2. Hurrying things up. “Why is the project taking so long?”
  3. Overreacting to delays. “What are we going to do?”
  4. Adding/changing scope. “Let’s do this thing and that thing, too!”

Remember that the best defense is often a strong offense when you are armed with data, the facts and confidence in your work. Here are some possible responses you can take to the types of stakeholder requests or overreactions noted above:

  • Know your project
  • Have the facts validated
  • Confirm your data is accurate
  • Confirm your team is onboard

Jennifer pointed out that your best tool is communicating what’s on the Critical Path. Using the information in the critical path, you can point out that some issues look big, but aren’t, while small issues that look small can be big (guess which ones are on the critical path!)

There are other tools you can use, like your risk register, implementing formal change request processes and referring to the scope statement.

By not being difficult, but also not being complacent, you are working for the successful completion of the project, and stakeholders will see this.

Pro-Tip: Your dashboard is also a great way to demonstrate live project data and reveal the overall health of your project. Giving stakeholders client-level access will empower them to be aware of the project status at all time. It will also empower you knowing that you can always point to the fact that they have had access to the project data, so any concerns can easily be addressed along the way.

For further ways to earn the trust and respect from your team and your stakeholders, read Elizabeth Harrin’s article How to Earn Respect as a PM.

Thanks for watching!


Today we’re gonna talk about when to push back, standing ground with stakeholders. Today I want to share a few tips and an approach so that it doesn’t have to be that scary.

We commonly find ourselves in situations with our stakeholders that look like this. Number one, our stakeholders could be reacting to misinformation, information they’ve heard through the grapevine. They could be trying to hurry things up. They may be asking, “What’s taking so long?” And then you’re saying, “Based on what, right?” And then the third thing is they could be reacting to delays, and they could be saying, “What are we gonna do?”

And then the fourth one is they could be adding or changing scope. And may be making assumption while we’re in there, let’s just do so and so that could impact your project. Well, the fact is your stakeholders are expecting you to push back, and a reminder you must push back but you need to know when. And you’ve been hired to keep the project on track. So I want to share an approach you can use that would be helpful. Number one, remembering the best defense is a good offense. And data and facts can give you the confidence you need to stand your ground.

Number one, know your project. You’ve got to know your project better than anyone else. And then you must have your facts and they must be valid. You also need to confirm your data to make sure it’s accurate. One of the few things that can help blow your credibility as a project manager if your facts aren’t valid and your data is not accurate, you’re gonna lose ground real fast. You must confirm with your team that they’re on board. Go back to them and ask them what is the true impact of what’s going on? Validate what’s going on. Is it rumor, is it real, and what’s the impact? And where are we in this project, really? And then when you have that information, going to your stakeholders is going to be much easier.

One great tool that you have access to, especially with the project management online software tool, is your critical path. And you can use your critical path to look at issues to see, you know, there are some issues that are big that can be small. If they’re not actually on your critical path, they may not have an impact at all. There may be enough lag or slack that it takes up for things. And issues that looks small can be really big. If they’re on the critical path, they could have a really damaging impact. But the critical path will assist you with making these distinctions, and your stakeholders may have information or may make incorrect conclusions about what’s going on. So you must help them by using this data from the critical path.

Some other tools that are very helpful for you are your risk register, your change request where you’ve evaluated the change to see what is the impact, and your scope statement so you know what’s truly in scope and what’s out of scope. And when you use data and dashboards to support your timelines, your scope, your cost and quality, again, you’re gonna be on much firmer ground in standing up to and pushing back on your stakeholders. And if you need a tool to help you push back on your stakeholders, then sign up for our software now at ProjectManager.com.


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