A successful project must satisfy stakeholders. But how can we agree in advance what success means if we don’t have all the information?
Although you cannot control stakeholders’ expectations, you can influence and persuade them. The key is to engage and involve stakeholders in value creation. Success hinges on a stakeholder-centered approach to project management.
Your job as project manager is a cross between a physician, a consultant and a professor. You have to guide and educate stakeholders, diagnosing their pain to uncover their real needs. If you really want to uncover stakeholders’ needs, you have to learn how to ask the right questions.
Since 2011, I’ve been applying problem structuring methods (PSM) to project management. These methods guide stakeholders through a learning process in which you define the boundaries of a problem to be solved. You understand more as you advance progressively and iteratively, tilting the project toward success.
Soft systems methodology (SSM) is one of the most powerful PSMs I know. It is organized into seven steps:
Soft systems methodology (adapted from Checkland, 1981, Fig. 6).
In my next post, I’m going to provide a real project example showing how to use SSM.
Do you have any other ideas or experience on how to engage your stakeholders in a learning process? Please leave your comments.