Letting Go of Stakeholder Control

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I was recently asked by a client to perform an audit of their project management approaches, and as part of that exercise I sat in on a few project meetings. One of the things that I noticed was that in team status meetings, the project managers were the only ones who ever spoke about the project stakeholders. It didn’t seem to matter whether we were talking about the sponsor, an end user or anyone in between--it was always the PM who controlled that relationship.

I asked the head of the PMO if that was just coincidence in those meetings and she said that it was the way that they were structured--the PM managed all stakeholder relationships because it centralized the control function and avoided things from circumventing the process. That struck me as rather odd, but thinking about it afterward I realized that it wasn’t that uncommon. However, I believe that there is a better way…and that’s what I want to look at here.

Building relationships
At the start of a project it’s important that the PM and stakeholders have strong relationships. The number of stakeholders who are actively engaged in the project is relatively small--the sponsor, the customer and a few key others. Communication and understanding between these individuals is vital to ensure that a solid charter is developed, that the scope is clearly defined, that the relative …

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