Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Stakeholder Analysis - don’t forget it’s a continual process

At the scoping stage, you’ve done your initial analysis with the matrices and communication results for all the people who might influence the course of the project. Fantastic. Yes, it does help greatly. But, so many forget that this arrangement is dynamic. Various stakeholders emerge as the most important at different stages of the project. Don’t be caught out. Quite often you just need to flag yourself to ask the dominant stakeholders for a forthcoming phase if they want to be kept informed differently. They’ll appreciate the heads-up and the acknowledgement of their increased status for the phase, while you retain the good will ... and control.

The dynamic nature of stakeholder analysis and communication is neglected at the peril of the project. This factor is not really given the attention it deserves yet, even though stakeholder analysis is cited in many top project management jobs. There are a few who show the wisdom of experience and we should try and learn from them even if they are general project managers rather than digital project managers.
Take for example Omar Muhammad and Abid Mustafa in Managing stakeholders – going beyond conventional wisdom, Project Smart (27 October 2013).

They are experienced in delivering complex projects in the telecommunications industry. This means they are closer to iMedia projects than many. You need to take a view on what they say as to whether your own projects are as complex, but, I’m sure you’ll recognise several of the stakeholder issues they mention.

The first issue they address is the difference between a stakeholder’s motives and expectations. This happens quite frequently. Do you recognise someone blocking progress but you can’t identify who because all the stakeholders appear positive to your face? The article writers warn about different agendas shown in levels of management meetings where you might be excluded. The second issue addressed is ‘Not all stakeholders are equal’, and the writers suggest your team adapts their management style appropriately. The third issue is, revolving alliances. This explains that you become part of a shifting set of alliances between the stakeholders that happens over the course of the project. I reckon the underlying message is, ‘Don’t make enemies’ as you may need the stakeholder’s support in an alliance later!

Finally, Omar and Abid give some hints and tips on ‘picking the right fight’. It’s a shame that they don’t define what ‘acceptable levels of behaviour’ are for stakeholders. But this sounds similar to conflict resolution techniques that we covered in our team management courses. There, you agree boundaries of acceptable behaviour for your team at the beginning of the project that can then be used if a team member becomes so problematic that his/her behaviour is having a negative impact on the project. This is an extension of conflict resolution techniques for stakeholders where you pre-empt difficulties by instituting boundaries of behaviour. Essentially Omar and Abid recommend that you only pick the battles with stakeholders that you can win. Good luck with that!

Otherwise there are some free resources that can help you over specific stakeholder problems. Take a look at free-management – ebooks.com and their range. We’ll focus on the stakeholder one now. The book covers how to identify stakeholders, plan their management, manage their engagement, and control their engagement.

I can imagine that if you are only involved in the short, sharp end of iMedia projects that all this seems unnecessary fuss and a lot of time and effort. Those of you that have to juggle several stakeholders, possibly internationally, will appreciate the insights. Hope they help.

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