Standing Up to Stakeholders

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-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's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Stakeholder management is a key part of any project--we know that. We also know that stakeholders are not always the easiest people to manage and that they can be a source of considerable frustration for project managers. To me, therefore, the solution would appear to be simple--manage the performance of our stakeholders so that they better support the needs of the project. That’s what we would do with our team members, and yet with stakeholders we tend to be a little gun-shy.

We make excuses for them: “They’re busy”, “They have a lot more things to worry about than this project” and “They have a lot of pressure to deal with.” What it really amounts to is that we are afraid of holding our stakeholders accountable when they fail to meet their obligations to the project. I get that from a career standpoint, but it’s not the best thing for the project.

Everyone is on the same side…usually
Stakeholders, by definition, have a vested interest in the success of the project. In some way they are invested in the work and/or the deliverables, so they should be looking to help you as the PM succeed. There will be occasional situations where the stakeholder wants the project to fail--someone who thinks that they are going to lose their job as the result of an automation initiative, for example. But generally speaking…

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"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer."

- Henry Kissinger