Practical Tips for Identifying, Analyzing, and Influencing Your Stakeholders
Projects can be engaging and even enjoyable, or it can be a source of aggravation and stress. If you put some care and time into identifying, analyzing, and managing your project stakeholders, you’ll have a better project experience and improve your chance of success.
Remember what Charles Schulz said through the character of Linus: “I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand!!” Schulz is saying that he loves mankind. But the problem is that individuals have flaws that can make life difficult.
One of the most critical elements of project management is developing relationships with key stakeholders—individuals, groups, and organizations. It is through these relationships that we can better define and control scope, understand requirements, mitigate risks, and improve project processes. One of the top reasons that projects succeed is stakeholder involvement.
For most of my career, I have served in financial service organizations. As a project and program manager and PMO director, I’ve had the responsibility of procuring the necessary products and services from sellers. In other words, I was a buyer.
I recently left the corporate world to develop my LLC where I provide consulting services and teach courses to help project managers prepare for their PMP and PMI-RMP exams. Now, I am a seller.
Whether you are or a buyer or seller, good communication and doing what you say is critical to success. What can we do to get everyone on the same page and for the buyer and seller has a mutually beneficial relationship? Allow me to offer three recommendations.
1. Define the Buyer/Seller Relationship
First, healthy buyer/seller relationships require clarity in the roles and responsibilities. Think about a project that requires third-party professional services. Perhaps you need an outside team to develop a new software application.
A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; they think success will come at every turn. Proverbs 17:8
Last week, Harry and I were running, and he told me about his procurement risk blog series. Since I am a fraud prevention guy, we began discussing the risk of vendor kickbacks to those with the power to purchase.
I have seen vendors provide free liquor, women, trips, cars, boats, and cash–all to guarantee their bid acceptance. One such case provided “hundreds of competitively-bid contracts to favored vendors in exchange for gratuities” including “hot tub parties with strippers.”
If vendors know your employees’ weaknesses, they can exploit them. And if they do, significant harm lies before you. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ fraud survey showed that 35% of the cases were corruption-related with a median loss of $200,000.
Discover the Power of Project Procurement Management
As we initiate our projects, we may find that our organization lacks the skills and knowledge to create the project deliverables and meet the project objectives. In other cases, we may need products outside of our organization. Project managers use procurement management to secure these needed products and services.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) says that Project Procurement Management “includes the processes necessary to purchase or acquire products, services, or results needed from outside the project team.” Our ability to find and procure the right resources at the right time will enhance our chance for success.
Project Procurement Management
1. Develop a Procurement Management Plan
So, how can we improve our project procurements? Start by developing a Procurement Management Plan. The plan describes your approach to acquiring the necessary products and services from outside organizations. This plan may include things such as:
I have had the privilege of managing two PMOs, both composed of several project managers. It was always interesting to watch—the best project managers were the ones who had a habit of identifying risks, both threats and opportunities. And these individuals did not perform the risk identification just once at the beginning of their projects. Rather, they had a habit of reevaluating their projects with an eye toward new risks.
Wise project managers know that there are unknown risks lurking in every corner. Each new phase of a project brings uncertainty, some significant, some not. Furthermore, as new stakeholders enter the scene, new interests and concerns can cause our projects to get off track.
If you’ve been burned by risks recently, let’s talk about what you can do to improve your chance for future success.
Do you live in fear of not getting results in your projects? Risk management is such an effective vehicle for climbing the tallest mountain or swimming the deepest sea. However, the risk management pitfalls are many, rendering us completely ineffective in our attempt to fulfill our dreams.
I fear that many project managers live by the letter of the law and may fail to gain the true benefits of risk management. These individuals are too concerned with checking boxes and making the risk management processes overly complex. Let’s look at some common mistakes and how to overcome them.
1. Thou shalt not make risk management complicated.
Every project is different. Wise project managers tailor their risk management plan to each project. Pick only the necessary inputs and tools and techniques. And speak in a manner that your sponsor, project team, and stakeholders understand. If you wish to introduce new terms (e.g., risk attitude, risk tolerance, Monte Carlo), be sure to define them.
Changes in project risks are inevitable. As a project progresses, the probability and impact of current risks change, new risks emerge, and residual risks may increase or decrease. How can project managers optimize their risk responses and get the results they are looking for?
Allow me to introduce you to two project managers—Tom and Susan. Tom started his project with a risk identification exercise with several stakeholders resulting in a list of 77 risks. He entered these risks into an Excel spreadsheet and stored the file in his project repository (and never looked at it again).
Susan, on the other hand, facilitated an early risk identification workshop. She periodically met with her team to review current risks and used additional techniques to identify new risks. In these risk review sessions, the team discussed the effectiveness of the risk responses and the risk management processes.
Which team do you think had the greatest chance of meeting their project objectives? Yes, Susan’s team wins the day, hands down.
Let’s look at six tools and techniques recommended in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) for controlling risks.
Some portfolio, program, and project managers make a big fuss over risk management. And others use lots of acronyms and big words to impress people. But at the end of the day, all that really matters is getting results.
For eighteen years, I worked for a property and casualty insurance company. Each year, our senior management team would meet with a credit rating agency to share our goals, strategies, and progress. The presentation included what we were doing for enterprise risk management.
One year, the rating analyst said that insurance companies can talk a good game. They have a risk management plan. They regularly identify, analyze, and respond to risks. And yet, some of these companies were floundering.
Then the analyst said, “All that really matters is that you are getting results.”
Project managers can be guilty of talking a good game too. We have a risk management plan. We perform all the risk management processes, but for some reason, we may fail to get the desired results.
So, let’s review the risk management processes, things within each process that may lead to lackluster results, and what we can do about each.
Is there a way to improve both project requirements and quality at the same time? Allow me to begin this discussion with an illustration.
I recently needed a television mounted on the wall of my office. A fairly simple requirement, right?
I told the handyman that I wanted the television to be head high. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the room and saw that the television had been installed a foot higher than I expected. The handyman did what I asked him to do but he used his head height, not mine. He was like the Jolly Green Giant – 6 foot 7 inches tall; I was 5 foot 6 inches tall.
Improve Project Requirements and Quality
Quality management is highly dependent on the clarity of the project requirements. Why?
Quality is the degree to which a project meets the requirements. This definition assumes that the requirements are defined and that there are varying degrees to which the requirements may be met.
If the truth were told, many projects lack SMART requirements: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. They’re vague, and there are little to no standards by which to judge whether the requirement has been implemented properly. Furthermore, stakeholders may not be engaged adequately in the requirements process.
Ill-defined requirements — like “install the TV head high” — make it difficult, if not impossible, for designers, developers, and testers to do their jobs. When defining requirements, define the fit criteria: “a quantification of the requirement that demonstrates the standard the product must reach.” For example, I could have specified the precise vertical and horizontal location for the television. With this, we would have had a way to measure whether the requirement was met (and avoid the rework, time, and extra expense).
Additional Requirements and Quality Management Articles
Want to know more about project requirements and quality management? Check out these additional articles:
Last week, I talked about How to Develop a Quality Management Plan. Today, I’d like to share common quality management mistakes. Being aware of these failure points can help you and your project teams to identify and manage quality risks.
Quality Management Mistakes
1. Failure to Define Quality
Quality means different things to different people. One person may say that they own a high-quality diamond ring. A builder describes his quality homes.
What does quality mean to a project manager and the project team? Quality is the degree to which a project meets the requirements. This implies that the requirements are known and that the needs may be met partially or fully.