Project Management

Do You Speak Stakeholder?

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of the Microsoft Project Made Easy series. For more project management advice, visit the website

In college, I was able to waive my foreign language requirement because I was studying computer science. The school accepted my emerging knowledge of Pascal, C and Cobol as acceptable languages. I did take one semester of Spanish, yet in all those years of studying different languages, I never found a textbook on how to speak Stakeholder.

There isn’t a class or a textbook available to teach you how to speak Stakeholder. It is a language that you learn through project experience including communication successes and failures. Speaking Stakeholder seems easy at first since it is rooted in English. However, the challenge is the language can differ from project to project. Below are a few examples and key lessons learned in stakeholder communication.

The project is W+
While working on one program in a manufacturing environment, the project team established a typical traffic light status of red, yellow and green to represent project status. The team was all set to present their first program status report to the executive stakeholders when we were told the presentation needed to realign to status terms the stakeholders would understand.

I was a bit perplexed how anyone could misconstrue a red, yellow and green traffic light status for key milestones; however, the manufacturing organization had their own language and reporting expectations for project status. …

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- William Shakespeare