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Topics: Consulting, IT Project Management, Stakeholder Management
Dealing with "difficult" stakeholders
I'm a consultant providing PM services for a company that has little to no formal experience with formal PM methodologies. I was hired to help them manage projects but have been experiencing a lot of roadblocks and push-back from stakeholders.

Some examples:

- business lead does not want me to reach out to potential vendors and only wants to be the only one reaching out to them. As a PM, I think my duty is to do research on the service offerings of potential vendors. If I don't reach out to them, how will I know what we are dealing with?

- business lead questions the PM tools that I use (MS Project, RAID log, etc.) and questions why we are using these.

How do I deal with this?
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Difficult situation indeed.

This business lead is probably threatened by you and thinks that you may be taking over their job. Your job is to explain that you are just a helper and they still possess the business acumen and expertise and you need their help to achieve a successful outcome for the company that you both work for.

There could be an issue regarding Intellectual Property(IP) and the business lead may be feeling that you are an outsider and therefore wishes to preserve the IP of the company by doing the dealings themselves.

Explain to them that you are working in their best interests and that they still are in charge of driving the business requirements and you are just facilitating the conversation with the best providers in the market and making sure that the vendors fulfill those requirements to the Business lead's satisfaction.

Explain to the Business lead that your focus is on the Risks, Issues, Dependencies, Constraints, Scope of Works , Delivery Time frames, Cost , Quality , Procurement terms and conditions for the contract, Operational Handover relating to the project and that you are an enabler and would like to help them make sure that all of the above are taken care of in discussions with the vendors. That you are happy for them to accompany you and contribute to these discussions.

If this still does not solve the issue , you may need to escalate.

Do you have a reporting manager? Are they a person who can influence some of the decisions that you want made like:-
1) Having the autonomy to approach vendors
2) Having the autonomy to use project management tools

If yes, this person could be requested to have a chat with the manager of the business lead to formally explain that you must be empowered to do your job and you otherwise cannot provide the value that you were hired for.

Finally , start updating your resume.

I agree with Deepesh that the business lead appears to be protecting their turf.But who wouldn't when they are not aware of what is going on and how it will impact their business.Probably that is also why the business lead is also questioning the tools that you are using.

In my opinion,active stakeholder involvement and participation could be the key in this situation.You need to bring the business lead on board,explain your project objectives and indicate how they will impact and contribute to their operations.Emphasize that their involvement and participation is very important for successful outcome.When reaching out to potential vendors,include them so as to create an atmosphere of transparency. Explain why you need to use the tools as well,they will appreciate the professionalism in the process and support it fully.

I donot encourage people posting questions anonymously.

project management revolves around 90% of communication and if that communication or reaching out to key stakeholders is blocked there is a big gap in the organization I believe this need to be corrected or a process need to be in place . Just as a PM explain why is this important for a PM

First of all, you really need to make them trust you and your knowledge. This is by sharing your knowledge and answering the questions. If you provide them with a proper amount of information and describe their application in the real cases; then they will gradually trust you.
You need to make the foundation of PM in this type of organization.
On the other hand, the business owners/leads generally prefer to keep their information and competitive advantages confidential.

Is the business lead the Sponsor, or the Senior User?

May be a political reason existed in your case. Who did sign the contract with you? Do company leaders and project owners agree with each others to sign contract with you? What are the contract terms? Is there anything that you are obligated to follow? I wonder why did they come to you for your service then they do not want you to serve them? The first thing I think you should do is to review the contract items with them; company leaders and project owners are key stakeholders in your "consulting project" so you must work with them closely to find out any hidden terms that they did not put in the contract or you did not thoroughly study their requirements. Honestly, ask them what do they really want you to do with their project.

I recommend you watch this webinar titled “The Project Manager’s Guide to Managing the Difficult Sponsor” by Dana Brownlee.

good article

What is your supervisor position on that? Is it the business lead?

You could look at it from a negotiation perspective. What are the good and bad reason for blocking the contact, What could be at stake for the business lead? Once done evaluate how you could make it a positive result for the business lead.
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