Effective stakeholder management is a key component of successful project delivery.
Taking the time to engage and organize your stakeholder group properly ensures all stakeholders are on the same page about their individual influence and responsibilities and how their roles fit into the bigger picture.
It also allows for quick and easy communication between project stakeholders, promoting collaboration and encouraging more creative solutions when faced with challenges along the way.
In this post, we will explore strategies project managers can implement to execute a solid stakeholder management plan and engage both internal and external stakeholders from the beginning to the end of a project.
What is stakeholder management?
Stakeholder management is the process of identifying, analyzing, engaging, and managing stakeholders to achieve a successful outcome in project management. It involves understanding their interests and expectations and creating strategies to exceed them.
Here’s a breakdown of the definition of stakeholder management:
- Identify. Find out who the stakeholders are that will be engaged in the project.
- Analyze. Determine the role of each stakeholder. What are they going to do for the project? What do they want to get out of the project and what is their motivation for being involved?
- Engage. Meet with stakeholders, outline your plan for the project at a high level, and describe how you will continue to communicate with them throughout the initiative. Inspire confidence that you’re there for them along the way and do your best to build trust—you’ll need it later!
- Manage. Along the project journey, communicate with stakeholders, share progress, and note any potential impediments or risks before they become big problems. Clarity and transparency are key!
Why is stakeholder management important?
Having a plan in place for stakeholder management is essential for successful project outcomes, because it:
- Helps ensure all stakeholders involved in the project understand their roles and responsibilities.
- Establishes expectations of how to interact with project team members and what to expect along the way. This keeps everyone on track and mitigates potential issues or conflicts before they arise.
- Sets the tone for how the entire project is shared moving forward.
- Allows internal stakeholders to feel heard and provides accountability. This can help foster collaboration among team members to achieve the best possible outcome.
Any plan project managers create should be comprehensive enough to cover all ways to engage and manage stakeholders. An effective stakeholder management plan has all vital information while remaining simple enough for stakeholders to understand.
11 stakeholder management strategies
1. Identify stakeholders
The first step in the stakeholder management process is to identify the stakeholders and their roles and interests in the project. This helps ensure that all potential stakeholders can be involved in the project and its decisions. You can only manage or influence what you know!
2. Conduct purposeful stakeholder analysis
As a vital part of project management, it's essential to understand the different types of stakeholders, their interests, and how they will be affected by the project's outcome. This will help them create strategies to meet stakeholder expectations.
I like to know what makes each of my stakeholders tick as I analyze their behavior styles to determine how to best collaborate and communicate with them. Suppose my stakeholder analysis shows you’re a people-focused, slower-paced person. In that case, I will highlight my happy, people-oriented updates along with project data to meet your needs and help you feel the project is being addressed from your point of view.
To find out if someone is more task or people-focused, I often just ask! People can generally type themselves accurately.
You might also notice how they speak and what they ask about. If they talk about deadlines and pushing harder, they’re likely task-focused. If they talk about a sustainable pace of work and ensuring people have what they need to succeed, they’re probably a people-focused person.
3. Focus on engaging stakeholders
As with stakeholder analysis, stakeholder engagement is super important for a successful project. Inviting stakeholders to participate in decision-making processes and informing them of progress can help build trust and foster relationships between all involved parties. I can’t highlight this enough—it is so critical!
Leaders and stakeholders love to influence decision-making, which helps them understand the project at a deeper level as they represent it to their peers. So, an excellent way to engage stakeholders is by inviting them into critical decision-making in an organized manner.
4. Establish clear goals & expectations
Creating clear goals at each stage of a project's life cycle helps set expectations upfront, so everyone knows exactly what needs to be done to succeed. Stakeholders need to be explicitly clear on what is promised, what is not, and what comes next.
If you create a complete project baseline at the beginning, communicate it and ask for feedback early on. Keep every project stakeholder (especially if they're a key stakeholder) informed and provide regular updates, even if things change.
5. Develop strong stakeholder relations
Building relationships is essential for successful stakeholder management. It helps ensure everyone is on board with the project's goals and understands each other's expectations. Your relationships with stakeholders will help greatly when things don’t go as planned. Build trust—it's super duper important. Stuff happens, and when it does, people need to trust you.
6. Communicate effectively
Keeping stakeholders informed throughout all stages of the project is essential for a successful outcome. It enables everyone to be aware of any changes or developments whenever they occur.
You might consider creating a space where everyone in the project team can see consistently updated information about the project at a high-level. People like to know how to get the information they are looking for, and sharing current information like this can be essential to project success
Also, you can create dedicated channels or forums where stakeholders can interact with one another to answer queries and discuss ideas without having to go through the project manager every time. These channels should have clear guidelines on when they are used, as well as a moderator that can oversee conversations if needed.
7. Consult regularly
People are your most important resource, so leverage them! Project managers must consult regularly with every key stakeholder. If you have a project stakeholder with expertise in an element of your project, consider discussing it with them before making any recommendation for the team.
You can also schedule regular meetings or updates with stakeholders to provide an overview of progress and address any questions or issues that may arise. Having these scheduled gatherings promotes collaboration and gives everyone a chance to voice their opinions, share feedback, and offer solutions where possible.
8. Involve stakeholders in decision making
Invite stakeholders into decision-making processes whenever possible, so they feel like they have a say in how projects unfold from start to finish. This helps build stronger stakeholder relationships between teams and more informed results-oriented decisions. I suggest a scenario-background-decision required-options presentation model to get everyone oriented, informed, and aligned in making quick decisions.
9. Designate an owner for project stakeholder management
It's useful to designate a project coordinator or support staff to own stakeholder engagement on larger projects. This is an excellent way for a newer project team member to acquire exceptional project and stakeholder management skills when paired with an experienced project manager who can guide these activities.
10. Address concerns quickly
If any concerns arise regarding a particular task or decision-making process, it’s crucial to address the issues quickly to maintain a good working relationship with everyone.
Jump on the phone, video call, or go for a coffee and find out what’s going on! Ask questions to get to the crux of the issue. Listen deeply and see what you can do to help everyone align.
11. Adapt as needed
As project managers know, you have to pivot often.
The circumstances are often not glamorous; they typically involve someone quitting, getting fired, or a customer making a big change. For example, if you were going down the road of a systems implementation and got a new leader (even a product manager or director), they might decide they want a ton more features! This changes everything.
As conditions change during a project's development, it's critical for the project manager to keep all stakeholders informed along the way. During the project, even the stakeholders' needs may change, requiring you to adapt and repeat the behaviors and steps you took before to create your stakeholder management plan.
Always keep communication in mind
The best project managers organize their teams and processes with the stakeholders needs in mind. That only works by establishing clear lines of communication among all the relevant people.
Effective communication is the most important stakeholder management strategy and will ensure you have the chance to build trust and engagement that lasts.