Some time ago, I was in charge of managing the delivery of a big project, considered a strategic project by the organization I was delivering it for, due to the nature of the technology involved and the market where it was deployed.
My Stakeholders Map included, among others, the Program Director, The Commercial Team, the client’s Delivery Manager, Solution Architect and…the Office Cleaning Company – because a stakeholder is anyone who has a vested interest in your project/service or operation and who can influence negatively or positively your delivery road-map, time-plan execution or processes adherence. Anyone!
After identifying absolutely all your stakeholders, make sure to engage with them individually, to establish a rapport.
It takes Persuasion
While the stakeholders produce a certain level of impact on your project, they can also benefit from your project. Which means you can use this aspect to fine-tune your approach when dealing with them. Every stakeholder is surly interested in one particular aspect: WIFM – What’s In it For Me?
Identify the WIFM for each of them and discreetly highlight it in your conversations with them.
Make them aware of the positive aspects that your project brings to them, may this be increased in business exposure, increase in resource allocation or increase in organizational visibility, that they may gain from their exposure to your project. For some of them, the WIFM might be decreased in professional headaches after the changes brought by your project go live.
The aim here is to create common ground based on the benefits that you’re bringing to them, in order to generate trust, get their buy-in and persuade them to be aligned with the directions of your project/service or operation.
It takes Assertiveness
Realizing that they have a pullover your project might make some stakeholders adopt power positions in their newfound professional relationship with you.
To avoid this, during your interactions (email, informal and formal one to one phone calls, conference calls and meetings) position your attitude and approach between a doormat and a bully.
The best way to do this is by ensuring that all your affirmations are backed up by arguments. Use because as often as possible in your conversations with them. And make sure you capture all the decisions in writing. All these take the emotional component out of the equation and allow you to set boundaries to their leverage.
Empathy is a must-have
To successfully manage your stakeholders’ expectations, behaviour and their influence over your project/service or operation you must be able to see things from their perspective and to identify their drivers.
Once your stakeholders feel and believe that their pain is your pain and your win is their win, then they’ll trust you. They’ll pick up the other end of the thread, they’ll keep the communication channels open, they’ll respond faster and more collaboratively.