Is This Your Project Stakeholder?

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Categories: Leadership

Imagine for a moment your organization has decided on a major restructure, and as a consequence has initiated a change-management process and appointed a change

The change manager develops the business case for a major program of work. The executives responsible for the organization's portfolio management approve the business case and agree to fund and resource the program.

The program manager sets up the program management team, establishes the program
management office and charters a series of projects to develop the various deliverables needed to implement the change. And you have been appointed project manager for one of the projects.

In this situation, your life as a project manager would be fairly straightforward; you have direct-line management responsibility to the program manager, and the change manager is your project sponsor. The program management office looks after most of the issues of sourcing adequate funds and resources.

All you have to do is deliver the project's outputs as defined in the project charter.

However, part of your project ideally needs the cooperative input from a group of people
who will be significantly disadvantaged by the overall reorganization. This group is led by a 20-year veteran of the organization, whom we will call Mary. At the moment, Mary's loyalties are divided--at one level she wants what's best for the organization she has worked for all her life, but she also wants to preserve her team and keep the status quo.

Fortunately, you have enough domain knowledge in your team to bypass her input and produce the deliverables anyway. So what should you do?

Option one is to work to get Mary and her team's input--if not their positive cooperation--but risk delaying your project's completion and overspending the budget.

Option two is to use the knowledge you already have in the team to produce the deliverable and bypass the problem, thereby ensuring on-time and on-budget delivery. This option also minimizes the chance of Mary interfering in the overall work of the project and program.

What would be your recommendation to the program manager? Option one, two or something different? Post your thoughts in the "comments" section and we shall draw some conclusions in my next post.
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: January 12, 2010 02:40 PM | Permalink

Comments (28)

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You are talking about a business change project. In this instance I would go for Option A because you must have the buy-in of those key individuals to make it work. However if it was an IT project I would always got for Option B.

After all project management stakeholders are important but successful project management in getting the project delivered on time to the quality specified is even more important!


Susan de Sousa
Site Editor

Payson Hall
While you might seek to confirm the approach with your project sponsor (not clear to me whether this would be the program manager, change manager, or some cabal of the executives that authorized the suite of projects in this scenario), I think that giving this part of the organization the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to participate in the project is the appropriate course of action.

In an early one on one meeting with "Mary" you might want to inquire about any divided loyalty issues that she or any of her staff might have and discuss ways to avoid or minimize problems, but introducing intrigue to avoid potential problems seems likely to make matters worse.

Cutting Mary and her staff out of the process without consulting them seems not only inappropriate, but likely to cause grief when the approach is discovered.

If a collaborative strategy is pursued in good faith and problems arise, then I would engage in problem solving with Mary and my project sponsors.

I believe a good project manager needs to understand that the project may have goals beyond its deliverables. In this specific example, producing timely deliverables but undermining the host organization's integrity or cohesion may be an example of winning the battle and losing the war.

Nigel Chen
I will clearly opt for option 1. Why rely on my sole abilities and not tap unto everyone's experience?

Most importantly, should Mary and her team be deprived from contributing their inputs, the end result is clearly going to be an undesirable one. Mary and other members of the team will feel that their voices are not heard or unimportant. They will immediately question their very own presence in the company.

Deadline is critical, but it has to be reasonable and most commonly re-negotiated. There is a risk of failure should the project manager bypass inputs from Mary, factor in this risk and obtain the necessary budget for it.

Linda Szmyt
Option 1

There is shared responsibility but discrete accountability for the program and projects deliverables.

1) The portfolio management team is responsible for understanding and accounting for the inherent risks of a change management program with the rest of the portfolio

2) The change manager is responsible for disclosing all risks associated with the program including any contingency for schedule and cost overrun resulting from non-compliance or push back from resources.

The change manager is also responsible for the communications plan that would help to get Mary on side and build a sense of ownership for her part in the program's success.

Change takes time. Some people get on board very quickly, others need more time to process the changes and likely need more effort in convincing and educating. Change is inevitable. Deep down Mary will know that maintaining status quo is a lose-lose scenario. Change management professionals understand this process.

3) The program manager is responsible for ensuring the projects are resourced for success and for aligning the individual's and team's objectives to the corporate objectives.

4) Mary's manager is responsible for ensuring that Mary has all the necessary information (and perhaps training) available for her to understand the importance of the change initiative and for providing Mary with the right incentives to drive the right level of commitment at the program and project levels.

5) The project manager is responsible for translating the change initiative objectives into the project objectives so that every member of the project team understands the impact of their deliverable on the overall success of the project ... and program. This helps to build a sense of ownership and commitment. The project manager should also make the team aware that the performance of the project team will be made visible at the program and portfolio levels. If the project manager is a good leader, then I would expect the project manager to familiarize herself with the team members such that she can understand the right levers to pull to motivate each team member to not only cooperate but excel!

In the end, Mary needs to be held accountable for her on-time on-quality on-budget deliverables.

So I would opt for Option 1.

Option 2 may appear to be the easier and faster, low risk, path but it fails on three levels:

(1) it sets a precedence for the next change initiative that at X Company we just steamroller over anyone who resists or gets in our way ... not a very convivial place to work

(2) it misses the power that comes from a well-executed change management best practices and process

(3) it inhibits the professional growth of the program and project managers to learn and/or hone their influencing, negotiating, leadership skills.

Victor Assis
That's a hard one. I think there are two basic points: -What's Mary general alignment to the project? -How influential can Mary be towards the program manager? If I had the answer to those questions, it probably would be obvious what to do.

George Turnbull
Option 2 is always tempting as the path of least resistance, and almost always a mistake. You may in fact be successful in the delivering on-time, on-budget, but the deliverable will be DOA. Without "Mary" and her team's support, the "deliverable" may be in place, but it will be undermined at every opportunity. I really see only two choices, Option 1, or your program manager must be able to get Mary and team "removed" from any responsibility, control and impact on the deliverable.

From a change perspective, Option 1 has the best chance of success, especially if the organization is enlightened enough not to take the short-term, quick payout of immediate staff reductions and instead use the newly available staff time to further other organization goals.

We must know that not every project will achieve the desired or intended result. It is the project manager's responsibility to establish in course of the project, what is fair and in line with the company's vision. Mary is a stakeholder, and infact a major one since she can get a lot of support from people. As the project manager, I will tend to buy into her positives. To do this, there will be need to show strong leadership abilities to manage personnel, develop sufficient communication plan to ensure that everyone's vision and action are aligned with the company, and that the failure of the project is not only the failure of the PM. My option will definitely be 1, with a huge reserve for risks management. There may be need to re-negotiate the schedules with the change manager. There may also be need to have the change manager iterate the entire plans to accomodate the positive comments of Mary. More resources may be required from the program manager to put the project team in the right understanding of the project. All stakeholders are important and should be carried along, but as the PM, the importance and power of any stakeholder should not be allowed to be misused. I will as the PM work to achieve the main deliverable of the project, which is change. Regards. Amaechi Okoro

Aaron Johnson
The problem with this as with most situations is that nothing here is Black or White by a whole lot of Grey. Grey can however be good because it offers a little wiggle room. Initially I would work towards a Option 1. Getting a buy in from Mary would benefit everyone envolved. Her team could possibly contribute in a good way. It is sort of like voting. Why should you complain about who was elected and what they did if you didn't vote yourself. If Option 1 started to look as though it were going to fall through or the project schedule was being effected then Option 2 would be back on the plate. I would then contact the Sponsors (Exec Team) and get their approval for the change. At least you give Mary a chance. Aaron

Paul Owen
The key project stakeholder and sponsor is: The Change Manager. As there is a change agenda driving the business case then of course this will be an issue for Mary due to her ownership/dedication in her role. Excluding Mary would result in a bad outcome for all as she is also the Team lead. Option 1 is the best. There is a conflict here that requires organizational Change Management. I would recommend confront the issue and meet with Mary and the Change Manager sponsor to give Mary a clear 40,000 ft view of the reasons for the change. If Mary can be convinced that the Change is best for the organization then she may well have insightful input to risk management during the project.

Rakesh Kasba
Dear Ms Linda, I would go for option B, i would unnecessarily be wasting my effort, time and budget on trying to convince Mary on a future result, which Mary will have many unanswerable questions about. I may also be unable to justify taking a risk and increasing budget when my objective was acheivable without adding the risks and budget on account of a preceived future benifit of winning over Mary. When the result comes i will be in a better position to convince Mary to my point of view the next time. Regards Rakesh Kasba

Ramnath Pai
I would go with Option 1 and take the inputs available from Mary and her team. A buy in from all affected by the change management will facilitate a smooth transition into the new system/process. Since Mary is a 20yr old veteran in the organization, her inputs and suggestions are more likely to be realistic and accurate. Also since Mary has all her loyalties to the organization with whom she has worked for 20 years, the Project Manager should make an attempt towards have her on board. It could help in getting a buy in from other stakeholders easily.

George Jacob Panicker, ME, PMP
1. In the subject case Mary is also a stakeholder as far as the project is concerned. Marys' loyalties towards the organization is beyond doubt. However, the subject change management exercise has probably resulted in an element of insecurity in the mind of Mary. 2. There is no doubt that the project has to go ahead towards actualization of organizational objectives. At the same time we can not antagonize a key stakeholder. Mary need to be won over by explaining and demonstrating to her how the project will benefit her group besides the organization thereby negating the element of insecurity in her mind. 3. The suggested approach would be:- (a) Execute the project as planned (b) Win over Mary & her team by highlighting the benefits of the project

Osama Omar
Thanks for ur Topic I guess its as easy as butter! first i have 2 understand Mary power/interest on the project and the worst line she can cross -i dont want to make enemies - so... PLAN A: i will arrange a meeting with Mary for gaining her friendship and to tell her in hidden words that i can do it alone so cooperating with me will give her an advantage and her team and i will ask for instant assisstant to see her behavior on any dummy work related to the project so she can show her acceptance/rejection PLAN B: for her rejection i will report my program manager/sponsor about her attitude and my ability to accomplish the work without her assistance( so they will understand how the flow will flow)

Al Moses
Mary was faced with a text book situation. She and her team could ultimately decide to run to goal like with out buy in from the Change management team and loose their future buy in on an equally or more important project change. Option 1 was clearly the choice for me. Although, steam rolling can be effective in required situations.

Russ Dionne
Option 1 is the only way to be successful and negotiate a schedule that meets deadline with extra effort by Mary and her team as required. Option 2 at first seems like the easy way to get through the first goal on schedule, but it will only cause numerous problems later that could delay schedule and even defeat the project. Part of the project planning is risk identification, and this issue appears to be the major risk item per facts listed.

Maureen Gan
There are plus points in option 1 while gaining Mary's cooperation and hearing her inputs and positive feedback. As a project manager, it is better to consider this and incorporate into the project plan so that the deliverables and output could be seen as having the stakeholders buy-in.

Producing the deliverables is what the project manager could work on - to have the project delivered on-time and on-budget, while not let the project manager produce these deliverables and send them to Mary and her colleagues for their review and output? This would mitigate some undue delay while still getting the feedback from the team.

Liken this to a replacement of legacy systems for a IT project, we could set up a fresh team of new people or we could work with the existing team of IT professionals and process owners together with subject matter experts and IT experts to make the change possible!

Change is about integrating the existing, retire the old and adopting the new!

Msureen Gan

Yes, option 1, for all the reasons cited above. However, I challenge the comment that IT projects should go option 2. One of the problems that has plagued IT for 50 years is that we think we're different. If business alignment is the trend in business that it appears to be in all the current CIO literature, then clearly we need to be operating with more cooperation, collaboration, and communication than ever before. We cannon turn Mary or any other key stakeholder into a liability for the project by marching ahead without her or them.

Ignoring people and bypassing is often a losing game. At each step they will resent and undermine your efforts even softly in the backs of their minds. The game here is influencing and socializing smartly the needed wins. Other parts of the organization will watch and directly reflect on the behavior exhibited this will often have a negative long term impact.

Option 1 based on the context as it exits at this point in time. Humanize the process.

I would suggest to program manager to use both options using this approach.

1. Initiate work using Option B by writing down all the team deliverables based on the PM knowledge and the approved project charter. Prepare a Project Management Plan that includes project background, WBS, RACI, scope, schedule, cost case, deliverables, milestone, risk analysis etc. (PM using expert knowledge)

2. Initiate Option A and setup kick-off meeting with Mary's group to present the Project Management Plan for their valuable inputs, concerns such as how their group would be disadvantaged by this project and secure her group's sign-off. Use negotiating skills to get Mary's group buy-in on the project deliberables as driven by the project charter and its general impact/benefits to the organization. Highlight also the risks related to triple-constraints i.e. scope, time, costs for non-cooperations issue.

Use the RACI to help crystallize to Mary's group their roles in the overall success of the project. It is imperative to realize that what is best for the project is also best for the organization. And what is best for the organization is also best for everyone including Mary's group. If necessary, seek the program manager or project sponsor executive support to assist in the negotiations with Mary's group. If circumstances allowed, maybe recommend to sponsor to revisit the charter to reduce or even eliminate her groups disadvantaged issues (if any) from the project. (PM using consensus)

3. Execute the approved Project Management Plan (sponsor, team) in close cooperation with PMO, change manager, Mary's team and/or other stakeholders. Track the risks associated with delays/issues from Mary's team / or other sources and proactively get buy-in on each assigned deliverables as per RACI from performing team/organization.

4. Perform the usual Controlling & Monitoring, Execute and Closing project management cycle.

In summary, Mary's group is a stakeholder and a very important one.

I would want go the Option A way.

Project manager must maintain good interpersonal skills, negotiation skills, leadership skills and must give recognition to every member who is a part of the project.

He must use good interpersonal skills with Mary and her team so that he gets the maximum inputs from them. If he does that there will be decreased risk of over budgeting and decrease risk of not meeting time lines.

Incase the project manager still finds a roadblock there is always a program manager/change manager to help him out to find ways for the success of the project.

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