Stakeholder Management; Controlling Expectations
People’s expectations of the project results are the primary factor in their level of support for your project and their final judgement as to the level of your success or failure. Stakeholder Management sounds pretty simple. I want their expectations high enough to cause them to cooperate but also to be low enough to be achieveable within the budget and duration. Sounds reasonable.
But when you stand infront of of the client executive or your executive stake holders seeking project plan approval its pretty easy for the audience to hear things your didn’t say so we need to be carful. Like this:
- Stakeholder, “I understand about the project reducing the error rate on our employee paychecks. But how about the security on the whole payroll system and protection against hackers”
- Bad PM answer, “We are going to ratchet up security at every level in the system including the people who take employee phone calls.
- Better PM answer, “You are correct our focus is reducing errors to less than 1%. We are going to adhere to all of the security standards the company has set and include every control process presently in place.
Why is the first one bad? It creates expectations you are not going to meet. That stakeholder will be wondering about and asking about all the new payroll security you promised and be disappointed when there is none.
The second answer is much better. You start of by complementing the stakeholder on knowing the scope, which reemphasizes it. Then you say no new security by telling the person that the new process will have all the controls the current one does. The answer may not thrill the stakeholder but you have restricted the expectations.
Steps in Stakeholder Management
This kind of careful speech is something you will use continuously with your stakeholders. But there is a lot more to stakeholder management. Here are the steps:
- Identify your stakeholders, anyone who will be affected by your project. You are interested in all of them, but focus on stakeholders in management.
- Unearth their expectations for the project and correct those expectations immediately if they are different than your project scope. Letting an incorrect expectation just hang in the air always come back to haunt you.
- Regularly monitor the management stakeholders feeling them out for issues they have with the project and any changes in expectations.
Follow those steps and keep good notes of each Stakeholder’s expectations so you can spot changes.