Don’t underestimate the importance of a Stakeholder Management Plan
The charter, the schedule, and the project management plan get all the glory, but the stakeholder register is key to understanding the others. After all, a project takes people not just to perform the work but also to benefit from the product. Without understanding the stakeholders’ needs, a project will likely miss the mark. This translates not just to a lost opportunity for the organization but also wasted time, money, and goodwill.
The stakeholder management plan also helps keep track of triple constraint impact. We often focus on the project’s priorities, but constraints also exist at the stakeholder and requirement levels. Understanding what makes each stakeholder tick is integral to successfully managing those needs.
Project managers often fall into the trap of believing stakeholder management is logical and thus can be done on the fly. Others may think their interpersonal skills enable stakeholder management to flow naturally. Seasoned project managers know better, aware of the manners in which stakeholder attitudes may change throughout the project. Being aware of the stakeholder’s desires and personalities can help the PM prepare for, and avoid issues.
Some projects run into difficulties due to the stakeholder management plan not being written down, but this often stems not from laziness but rather a mistaken belief that the PM “knows all about the stakeholders.” Project managers, no matter their tenure in the organization, should not fall into this trap. Crafting the stakeholder management plan:
- Helps other team members, whose tenure and experience may be limited and not have relationships with the stakeholders. Think about when you first started working for your company, or when you first took on your current role. Your network was likely limited both in terms of knowledge depth and breadth. A well-curated list of stakeholders can save your team from spinning around in circles to find out who is affected by the project and to what degree.
- Can assist when a stakeholder leaves the organization and a new one comes into the vacated role. It would be ideal to have a project where the stakeholders do not change…but that seldom happens. People retire, take new jobs, are moved to new roles; while some may adequately train their replacements and help them understand their role in the project; PMs should not assume this would always happen. The stakeholder register can help identify gaps and prepare for such personnel transitions.
- Can help clear misunderstandings. Conflict is unavoidable in projects, but the team should be well-versed on how to solve it. Confusion, on the other hand, can often fester if not clarified. The stakeholder register, when easily accessible by the team, can clarify roles, responsibilities, and areas of interest. Note the stakeholder interest and influence matrix will expand on the topic, so don’t rely on the register by itself.
- Can facilitate conversations on Roles & Responsibilities. The stakeholder register can help guide such conversations, proactively prompting the team to analyze who is best suited to tackle individual tasks and oversee specific areas. Vetting these duties against the involved stakeholder areas ensures no affected department is forgotten.
- Can help craft the change management plan. A successful change management plan covers the what, how, why, when, where and how of the current state: future state transition. You can get a head start by ensuring your stakeholder register is complete and thorough.
As with other project management artifacts, it’s key to remember the stakeholder management plan should be revised as needs arise. However, it should always be connected to the underlying stakeholder list. Always ask, after every conversation“, is there someone else you’d recommend I talk to?” This can help not just unlock doors, but also discover doors you didn’t know existed!
It is a good idea for the Project manager to associate themselves with Organizational Change Manager or better still have one on the team as their service is invaluable especially on complex projects, don’t ever underestimate the benefits a change manager can bring to a project team and dealing with stakeholders. Tell us your thoughts and if you create a stakeholder management plan for your projects, all the very best on your project management journey.