Laying the Foundation for Effective Program Stakeholder Management

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.

Ask any project manager to list their top five frustrations, and “stakeholders” will almost certainly make the list. It may be that stakeholders aren’t engaged enough, or perhaps they are too engaged—or maybe they keep switching between those two extremes. There will likely be complaints of not understanding issues, constantly changing their minds or not following through on their commitments. In short, as far as many project managers are concerned, stakeholders exist merely to frustrate them.

At the program level, that frustration can be ramped up even higher. Programs tend to have more—and more senior—stakeholders, and they have to be involved longer. Programs also have greater uncertainty—and therefore require more active stakeholder engagement to drive the decision-making process, especially early in the program cycle. This environment can generate real problems for the program manager, and it is therefore critical that he or she create a foundation for stakeholder engagement that seeks to proactively control the potential for disruption.

Dealing with tiered stakeholders
The first consideration that program managers must deal with is that there are not just more stakeholders on programs, there are more levels of stakeholder. Most business areas will have a senior-level individual who is the final decision maker for that …

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