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Topics: Construction
How do you build consensus among varied stakeholders?

In this PM Network case study, the project manager of a $380 million renovation of the Gateway Arch discusses the challenge of working with seven partners——each with its own project culture, expectations, objectives, procedures and regulations:
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To break down silos and cultivate a shared vision for decision making on the Gateway Arch project, the team held dedicated meetings to address the most problematic differences. The team contracted third-party facilitators to hold one large, all-day partnering session and several hourlong, smaller sessions for executives and key stakeholders. At these sessions, the team members participated in activities "aimed at getting to know each other outside of their project roles, understanding each other’s perspectives and aligning project goals and expectations."

It needs to start with the project vision - if you can't get alignment and shared understanding towards that from key stakeholders, get ready for trouble further down the line!

Hi Aaron,

In my opinion, the lack of collective trust is the primary ingredient to stakeholder and core team issues when it comes to consensus and unity concerns. It appears to me that this was proven out by the result of the facilitated “all day partnering session” (and follow up sessions) where they created activities that encouraged relational bonding through the sharing of interpersonal thoughts related to the project and one's personal life.

I believe this positively impacted consensus due to the stakeholders being able to grant “cognitive trust” (i.e., trust given by choice) to other stakeholders for the fact that they were able to see interpersonal qualities such as competence, reliability, dependability, and integrity in their counterparts. So, I believe the lesson here is that PM’s need to create conducive environments where this type of interaction can occur in their stakeholders and of course, their core teams as well.

One more thought, a PM should never assume that trust exists in a project environment, whether it be “does the team trust me” or “does the team trust each other.” Stated another way, a PM needs to make trust-building (specifically the cognitive form) a strategic action in their projects from conception to closure.

Great advice and perspective here, Kiron and George.

Hi Aaron,
Great to learn from the case study of the divide-and-conquer approach which breakdowns the project sequentially into manageable components to increase partners’ participation and gather lessons learned.
When an organization has several hierarchy levels with a complicated stakeholder network, maintaining organizational visibility and communication clarity tend to be more difficult.
We may map out a stakeholder network to analyse engagement strength, diagnose the weak engagement points, and identify their root causes and work on improving.
Work on fostering an environment of mutual understanding of each stakeholder group’s objectives and concerns, build on aligning them to project’s goals and the organization’s shared vision, and thus building a unified organisation gradually.

By creating a vision collectively with all key stakeholders, hearing different opinions, needs, negotiating expectations, I believe you will reach to a consensus.

If you did not, then like a Kiron said, be ready for trouble because not have consensus on the vision can be detrimental down the line.

One of the major contributions to the success of the project was that the different stakeholders interest was properly aligned to the project objectives through series of meetings. This resulted to building of trust among them. Also the strategy of implementation was clearly defined and understood by project team members based on passed experience and lesson learned. Though we should commend them for some level of proactive nature which was as a result of good risk management in place. I ask, should the project be termed very successful when there was some months of delay in project completion of which i know there may be cost implication?

As usual, stakeholder management is primordial.

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