Project Management

Repairing Broken Stakeholder Relationships

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

Not everything is always lilacs and roses when it comes to maintaining positive and productive relationships with project stakeholders. After all, everyone is human—and with that comes different perspectives, perceptions and agendas, all of which can lead to hiccups in the quality of interpersonal relationships.

The truth is that relationships can become dysfunctional and even broken for a host of reasons, and it is imperative for PMs to recognize when relationships are going south—and to understand what they can do (if anything) to repair them.

The source of a relationship issue might not be as clear cut to understand as one might think. Sometimes negative relationships have nothing to do with a personal conflict, but rather with a person’s or group’s issue with another group due to experiences that happened in the past.

For example, when I became the CIO for a large hospitality company, the relationship of IT with the rest of the organization was so dysfunctional that just being from IT meant you were disliked. It wasn’t so much who you were, but rather who you represented that created the break.

Structural, tribal or inherited broken relationships can be very difficult to repair as the root causes may be forgotten while the feelings and biases remain baked into the culture. Person-to-person relationship issues are normally easier to …

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