How to gain support from stakeholders?

Today, we are going to share the topic of how to cooperate with stakeholders.

In daily work of project management, project manager could encounter various issues and problems, which can all essentially be attributed to the issues of people. That’s because all problems are just extension of people’s work and it is people that is needed to solve the problems.

As a project is being carried forward, various stakeholders are involved, such as internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, public stakeholders and so forth. The question is, how are we going to effectively identify stakeholders and how to perform stakeholder management?

Here is a practical case.

Last year, Matt’s company initiated an construction project of intelligentizing law execution. The client of the project is mainly law enforcement. The objective of the project is to make the process of law execution “informationized, intelligent, processed and humanized”, which would make the law execution more effective and more standardized. Therefore, the client has raised many functional requirements.

Matt encountered several issues when the project was at execution phase.

Issue #1

After more than half of the system was developed, the director of the division of regulation mentioned to the project manager that all results of law execution must be reviewed and inspected by division of regulation before they can be distributed to public, which means the software system must leave a port or a node for division of regulation to review the results before being distributed. This is a requirement which is not in the original project scope. But all of a sudden this key stakeholder jumped out and raise this new requirement. Matt could do nothing else but to organize the team members to develop all the additional functions by working overtime, which would affect the project’s baseline more or less.

Issure #2

Because of the devolution of administrative power to lower levels, the people who are actually executing law are those officers of low level districts and bureaus. When the project was at the phase of market promotion, lots of problems was reported by numerous low level officers. While Matt and his team was continuously modifying the system based on the feedback requirement, the frontline low level officers are still unwilling to use the system.

Issue #3

During the meeting of product acceptance, Matt was presenting the system to the leaders of law enforcement office, one of the leaders raised a very interesting question: “About this system, how can we call it intelligent? I don’t feel anything intelligent about it.”

Sure, after repeatedly modifying, testing and many presentations, the system were finally accepted by the clients, and the system had reached the expectation of end users. But still, the hole project was tedious and troublesome.

In Matt’s opinion, many project managers have encountered more or less the similar issues as in his project, issues like: non-alignment of ideas, miscommunication, and sometimes like “I am not aware of this requirement”, these things happens a lot.

Then, from the view of people, we can resume the project by performing better stakeholder management. The essential issue is lack of identification of key stakeholders and departments at the early stage, which leads to issues and problems continuously popping up at the later stage of the project.

Now, let’s go back to the case.

First, identify all key stakeholders and relative departments.

The common sense is that key stakeholder of law execution must be law enforcement office and persons responsible.

Meanwhile, we usually have to find the right people to talk to, including people from senior management, leaders, operators, workers and coordinators. If any of these stakeholders is not managed effectively, then it would bring negative effect to the project. The question is how we can identify all the relevant stakeholders? Normally, interviews are needed for this process. We can interview the senior project manager, SME of the organization, and ask for their help. Another good way is to identify the key stakeholders using former project/case. For example, as for the division of regulation in the case, we would soon discover the relevant policies have significant effect on the project by consulting the experts of the division. And we would further discover the existence of frontline workers. On the other hand, by consulting the former business and marketing colleague about the organizational structure of client company, we would also discover the existence of the leaders of law enforcement office and their impacts on the project.

Second, we have to analyze their expectation and impact on the project, and based on that, we also have to what to do.

Why do we say “expectation” instead of “requirement”? Because requirement is manifest, which can be defined and written into the agreement or requirement statement. But expectation is implicit, which can not be written but have to be identified based on stakeholder’s interest or impact.

Back to the case, for the division of regulation, to review the result of law execution is one of their responsibility, therefore we have to develop the relevant function of the system to satisfy their need. For this type of stakeholders, their requirement should be identified and included in the project requirement. If this had been down, it would not raise any more problem at the later stage of the project.

For the frontline law enforcement officers, we need to include them in the range of communication channels as early as possible. For example, we can start with talking to one of them, to find out their real expectation for the project. Then, we have to find the balance between these froneline workers’ expectation and the project requirement, which means to achieve the project’s objectives without too much resistance from the frontline workers. This would effectively engage with them to cooperate with the project’s work.

In summary, in order to gain maximum support from stakeholders, at the early stage of project we have to identify and analyze key stakeholders, which would have possible significant impact on the project. Then we have to analyze their expectation and impact. Based on that, appropriate strategies must be performed in order to monitor their engagement in the project. After that, the project would be much more successful.

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