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Stakeholder silence
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Today one of my colleagues asked me what to do If the key stakeholders of the project goes on a silent mode and do not response to necessary decision making emails. I told him to do a root cause analysis for this response of stakeholders. But he didn’t appeared to be satisfied. What better response or suggestion I could have given him?
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While I agree with your RCA premise, that can sound very formal and burdensome to people. They do need to evaluate why the stakeholder won't respond, what is the consequence, and what are the options.

The remedy depends entirely on the situation so that information is critical. If emails don't work, I will track people down and discuss face to face. (Sometimes I will literally sit by their desk until they are done with a phone call or return from a meeting.) It is difficult to ignore me that way and they quickly learn that I will be persistent until I get an answer. With some people, I might play "bad cop" and elevate the situation to their own management. If it is someone in senior leadership, I might ask for help from other senior leadership. When time is critical and depends on the decision, I might phrase the request in a way where I will move forward whether or not they respond such as, by pointing out "Here is the direction I will assume if I don't get a response by X date because this affects the critical path."

Since the approach I choose is entirely dependent on who it is and the specifics of the situation, your coworker does need to evaluate the situation and their potential options, even if they are doing it more informally than asking the "5 Whys" or something that sounds like a lot of work.
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1 reply by Eric Isom
Jun 07, 2019 8:37 PM
Eric Isom
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Excellent response. Let me just emphasize to Neha your recommendation to do all you can to contact the stakeholder personally before escalating to their management. Much better for the long-term relationship with the stakeholder. And I completely agree with your suggestion to contact their peers if you can't reach them. Also, I would add, that you may learn a lot about how to engage a particular stakeholder by consulting with other project managers that have worked with them.
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Tell your colleague to inform the stakeholder's supervisor that the stakeholder isn't responding in a timely manner, and describe the resulting impact upon the project. Project Managers shouldn't need to psychoanalyze stakeholders; their prompt response to important emails is part of a stakeholders job responsibility, and if he or she isn't responding that's an issue for their supervisor to resolve. Notifying the stakeholder's supervisor might be as simple as cc'ing the supervisor on the emails you send to the stakeholder. This is the first thing I do to get silent stakeholders to respond to emails, because they know their boss will be aware if they don't respond.
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While I need more context I have to say this: if your stakeholders are in "silent mode" then your project stakeholder analysis is incomplete or is not right. Why? Because the project owner are your stakeholders. Why? Because a project is started because the project stakeholders (at least a subset of them) have to achieve an organizational objective/goal and the mean to achive that is the project that will create it. So, review the project stakeholder analysis.
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1 reply by Frank Jelenko
Jun 07, 2019 8:54 AM
Frank Jelenko
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Good point!
In fact, if a root cause analysis were done, this might be on the way to the root cause.
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Neha -

Beyond understanding why the stakeholder(s) are being silent, it is useful to know whether the decision in question requires those stakeholder(s) or not. It is possible the team has been empowered to make the decision but this was never formally communicated to them or they are operating under an assumption that they need to have the decision made by the stakeholder(s).

Kiron
Network:543



Try to call the stakeholder
If possible visit them if they are in the same city
Try to contact them via email to explain the urgency of your request and how it's impacting your project

Failing that ,
I would escalate to the project sponsor but i will need :-
Evidence of having contacted the stakeholders
Evidence of having communicated and articulated the level of stakeholder's involvement required . E.g. I needed XYZ to review the design , I have sent an email on this date , sent a followup email again on this date, tried to call them , but I haven't received the response
Evidence of how the stakeholder response delay is impacting the project .

Note this as an issue on your project and highlight this as being a risk to project timeline or scope as may be the case and present it in your steering committee meeting or board meeting.

More often than not , this is likely to get the stakeholder or their delegate to the party
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Jun 06, 2019 3:42 PM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
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While I need more context I have to say this: if your stakeholders are in "silent mode" then your project stakeholder analysis is incomplete or is not right. Why? Because the project owner are your stakeholders. Why? Because a project is started because the project stakeholders (at least a subset of them) have to achieve an organizational objective/goal and the mean to achive that is the project that will create it. So, review the project stakeholder analysis.
Good point!
In fact, if a root cause analysis were done, this might be on the way to the root cause.
Network:185



Jun 06, 2019 2:43 PM
Replying to Keith Novak
...
While I agree with your RCA premise, that can sound very formal and burdensome to people. They do need to evaluate why the stakeholder won't respond, what is the consequence, and what are the options.

The remedy depends entirely on the situation so that information is critical. If emails don't work, I will track people down and discuss face to face. (Sometimes I will literally sit by their desk until they are done with a phone call or return from a meeting.) It is difficult to ignore me that way and they quickly learn that I will be persistent until I get an answer. With some people, I might play "bad cop" and elevate the situation to their own management. If it is someone in senior leadership, I might ask for help from other senior leadership. When time is critical and depends on the decision, I might phrase the request in a way where I will move forward whether or not they respond such as, by pointing out "Here is the direction I will assume if I don't get a response by X date because this affects the critical path."

Since the approach I choose is entirely dependent on who it is and the specifics of the situation, your coworker does need to evaluate the situation and their potential options, even if they are doing it more informally than asking the "5 Whys" or something that sounds like a lot of work.
Excellent response. Let me just emphasize to Neha your recommendation to do all you can to contact the stakeholder personally before escalating to their management. Much better for the long-term relationship with the stakeholder. And I completely agree with your suggestion to contact their peers if you can't reach them. Also, I would add, that you may learn a lot about how to engage a particular stakeholder by consulting with other project managers that have worked with them.
Network:337



Tell him to (1) call key stakeholder after sending email to ensure that he or she got his email, (2) call again to remind his or her before the date he want to receive responded email, and (3) call again if he still do not get it after the date (the better way is face-to-face communication if he can). If this tactic does not solve the problem then adding this issue to the project risk register and call for a meeting with all key stakeholders, present the impact of late decisions, discuss the way how to resolve it and get concensus of all key stakeholders on the project communication plan, the rule of time for answering emails. Normarlly he will get agreement. As Sergio pointed out, I think he have wrong stakeholder in the project. Many projects suffered from this dilemma because of project managers did not spend enough time to identify and analyze stakeholders or lacking experience in stakeholder management. This situation is also existed in organizations when project managers do not have enough power to manage and lead projects.
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Hi Neha, Keith & Deepesh have given apt responses. RCA can be done in parallel, but it will be a wasted effort if it’s only one stakeholder unless he reigns power and influence. RCA may not reveal the reason for being silent, if he is selective in communication. Quite possible Stakeholder might not be engaged well in the project, because of which he could have become silent. In India its often said, “baath karne se hi baath banthi hai”, be persistent in your communication.
Network:285



Gentlemen, thank you so much or pouring in responses.
in our case we are the Virtual team supporting one different geography. so here the stakeholders are the actually lead team members. My Colleague said he tried most of the suggestions listed by you all, the regular follow & escalation did worked at last but he earned a bad name.A face to Face chat was never a option here and RCA was more theoretical in the situation.
As mentioned by Nguyen Khai in his post this is more of lack of PM power situation.
also now my question is that when top leadership call the organisation as Strong Matrix, some managers do act to make it a weak matrix.Is it common phenomenon?
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