Project Management

Influencing Stakeholders: An Ethical Dilemma

George Jucan is an experienced Project Manager Professional (PMP) with 20 years of technical and management experience in complex environments, both in public and private sector. He is well known in the project management community as a successful IT project management consultant, speaker at public events, trainer and author of project management articles.

Most literature regarding stakeholders in project management takes a very passive approach—we’re supposed to discover them, analyze and classify them, understand their needs and cater to those needs by feeding them with the information they want, when they want it and through the channels they want to receive it. There is an underlying hope for this approach that if we give them the information that they need, the stakeholders will become engaged and supportive of the project.

Let’s put things in perspective for a bit, and use Google as an example. Google’s tremendous success is not due to its ability to uncover and provide us with the information that we need (all other search engines discover and provide the same information), but to its courage to take out of our hands the decision of what information is important for us. Their ranking algorithms decide what the most relevant information for us is and present it first, and we’re happy to accept it as such. Most of the time we pick something from the first page.

Google’s success (75-90% of searches, depending on who’s publishing the statistics) demonstrate that we’re not only willing, but even happy with someone else taking the relevance decision out of our hands. And if this is true, why would we assume that when a stakeholder has an information need, they will be happy …

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