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Topics: Consulting, Ethics
Stakeholders: Give them what they *want*, even if it isn't what they *need*?
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Have you ever dealt with stakeholders so fixated on an bad idea or faulty method that they insist you run a project in a particular way, despite your warnings that the project will produce subpar results or fail? How have you responded to these situations?
Clarification: These stakeholders are the type motivated by selfish ambition, the sort who would knowingly waste millions of dollars just to keep themselves in power, regardless of how it harms the organization or the people it serves. The actions of these stakeholders aren’t illegal, but it’s obvious they aren’t in the organization’s best interests.

A. “It’s your money, and I’ll do my best. Just remember that I warned you.”
B. “I can’t in good conscience be a part of this project.”

Or did you respond in some different manner?
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In one case that come to mind is I keep my point for months, trying to convince with demonstration. Until I finally got the stakeholder to check on-site.
I give them what they "need"
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No, and not A or B but I expect stakeholders to have expectations, demands, business needs and governance requirements.

Projects are challenging which I why I love my job and the people I get to work with.

Here is my approach to stakeholder engagement:
As a PM it's one of the greatest opportunities to build relationships and partnerships with your stakeholders while producing results and outcomes that add value.

As a PM it's your job to provide information and data for your sponsors, steering committees and stakeholders so they can make executive decisions. This may be in the form of executive presentations, demos, white or concept papers, business case proposals, reports etc. Also, sponsors may receive little to no training so it's important to coach them so they can provide the support necessary for you and your project team. Normally, I've requested for roadblocks, barriers, and obstacles to be removed, strategies and approaches to be considered for keeping the project moving forward unless the sponsor requested other approaches to defer, pend, re-prioritize etc.
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2 replies by Eric Simms and Naomi Caietti
Mar 01, 2017 8:51 AM
Eric Simms
...
I clarified the original post. I was actually thinking about stakeholders motivated by selfish ambition, the sort who would knowingly waste millions of dollars just to keep themselves in power, regardless of how it harmed the organization or the people it serves. The actions of these stakeholders aren’t illegal, but it’s clear they aren’t in the organization’s best interests.
Mar 01, 2017 3:45 PM
Naomi Caietti
...
Eric:
It doesn't really matter because where-ever you go there they are; stakeholders with varying opinions, expectations, and more.
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What Naomi said ...

In addition, through the conversations and coaching, helping them to understand what and why the concerns, strategic impacts, long term impacts, and solutions - clear and concise. Education over conviction.
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Feb 28, 2017 11:25 PM
Replying to Naomi Caietti
...
No, and not A or B but I expect stakeholders to have expectations, demands, business needs and governance requirements.

Projects are challenging which I why I love my job and the people I get to work with.

Here is my approach to stakeholder engagement:
As a PM it's one of the greatest opportunities to build relationships and partnerships with your stakeholders while producing results and outcomes that add value.

As a PM it's your job to provide information and data for your sponsors, steering committees and stakeholders so they can make executive decisions. This may be in the form of executive presentations, demos, white or concept papers, business case proposals, reports etc. Also, sponsors may receive little to no training so it's important to coach them so they can provide the support necessary for you and your project team. Normally, I've requested for roadblocks, barriers, and obstacles to be removed, strategies and approaches to be considered for keeping the project moving forward unless the sponsor requested other approaches to defer, pend, re-prioritize etc.
I clarified the original post. I was actually thinking about stakeholders motivated by selfish ambition, the sort who would knowingly waste millions of dollars just to keep themselves in power, regardless of how it harmed the organization or the people it serves. The actions of these stakeholders aren’t illegal, but it’s clear they aren’t in the organization’s best interests.
Network:209



When I wear a PM hat, I'm rarely endowed with any real decision-making authority. Normally, all I can do is present facts/data, express my honest opinions as objectively as possible, and try to influence the appropriate stakeholders. But I've learned not to get too emotionally attached to my projects. If a stakeholder damages the probability of project success and the organization won't correct that stakeholder, then all I can do is manage the damaged project and continue to present honest facts/data.

So option A: it's not my money. They're still paying me for my services, even if I don't agree with their business decisions. In this sense, I'm in the same boat as a retirement manager who has a customer that insists on putting all their money in one commodity. It's a bad decision, but the customer gets the final say.

I wouldn't necessarily walk away from a project unless there were ethical conflicts that I couldn't resolve. Waste isn't necessarily unethical, it's just bad business.
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I have dealt with situation, wherein senior leadersship team from customer & organization decided to go ahead with adhoc way of executing a project with unrealistic timelines. The risks of such execution was warned by me, however it was sidelined it as exception case. The end result - target date was slipped thrice due to technical challenges, churn of requirements. Finally, when things started to fall apart, I was informed to take control of things & given authority to manage and execute project by following proper project management practise This resulted in successful delivery of project and stakeholders were happy towards the end
Network:1766



Feb 28, 2017 11:25 PM
Replying to Naomi Caietti
...
No, and not A or B but I expect stakeholders to have expectations, demands, business needs and governance requirements.

Projects are challenging which I why I love my job and the people I get to work with.

Here is my approach to stakeholder engagement:
As a PM it's one of the greatest opportunities to build relationships and partnerships with your stakeholders while producing results and outcomes that add value.

As a PM it's your job to provide information and data for your sponsors, steering committees and stakeholders so they can make executive decisions. This may be in the form of executive presentations, demos, white or concept papers, business case proposals, reports etc. Also, sponsors may receive little to no training so it's important to coach them so they can provide the support necessary for you and your project team. Normally, I've requested for roadblocks, barriers, and obstacles to be removed, strategies and approaches to be considered for keeping the project moving forward unless the sponsor requested other approaches to defer, pend, re-prioritize etc.
Eric:
It doesn't really matter because where-ever you go there they are; stakeholders with varying opinions, expectations, and more.
Network:4118



To me, this comes down to whether you want to stay on the bus or get off. If people are being treated badly, if you're in a no-win situation, you can continue to take the hits or get off the bus. Move on to another pasture where you can work with people who inspire you and ignite your passion.
Network:1531



Sorry but it is a big mistake here. You ever will face stakeholder needs/wants/desires that somebody have to translate into requirements. Usually the business analyst in product/service/result requirements that will help the project manager in creating project requirments. No matter what you think, that is the way. So is totally incorrect to express things like "is what they want but not what they need" because the only people that can evaluate that are the stakeholders themself. On the other side, when all stated somebody has to be clear about she/he is there to help the whole organization to solve a problem and that a problem is defined as the gap between perceived reality and desire reality so she/he must work on the perception, on the desire and/or the gap. Your duty as business analyst is diagnose but not prescribe. To prescribe you must engage the right stakeholders to do that. Your duty as project manager is making a reality what the prescription as define as the solution.
Anonymous
Normally, all I can do is present facts/data, express my honest opinions as objectively as possible, and try to influence the appropriate stakeholders. But I've learned not to get too emotionally attached to my projects. If a stakeholder damages the probability of project success and the organization won't correct that stakeholder, then all I can do is manage the damaged project and continue to present honest facts/data.

So option A: it's not my money. They're still paying me for my services, even if I don't agree with their business decisions. In this sense, I'm in the same boat as a retirement manager who has a customer that insists on putting all their money in one commodity. It's a bad decision, but the customer gets the final say.

I wouldn't necessarily walk away from a project unless there were ethical conflicts that I couldn't resolve. Waste isn't necessarily unethical, it's just bad business.
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