Archives for category: teams

All projects have stakeholders. Some are more “key” then others.  How do you best determine who your project stakeholders are and what you should do with them?

In this post, I will outline a process to help a Project Meeting Facilitator work with a group to identify, map and create a management plan for dealing with Project Stakeholders.

Meeting Outcomes:

  • Stakeholder identification
  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Stakeholder management plan
Agenda:
  • Brainstorming
  • Mapping
  • Management Planning
Facilitation Guide:
  • Stakeholder Brainstorming
  • The first step in Stakeholder Analysis is to get the group to identify as many of the project stakeholders as possible. In order to do that we first need the group to have a single understanding of what we mean by “stakeholder.”  For the purposes of this post, we will use the PMI PMBOK definition which states, “Stakeholders are persons or organizations (e.g., customers, sponsors, the performing organization, or the public), who are actively involved in the project or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project.”
  • For larger groups, split the group into smaller teams of no more than 6 individuals. Each group should have a flip chart, markers and post-its.   Post-its are recommended for flexibility at a later step.
  • Instruct each group to take 5-10 minutes to brainstorm who they see as stakeholders for the project. Remember, during brainstorming the goal is to generate ideas, not to debate the quality of the ideas. Each stakeholder idea should be written separately onto a post-it and placed onto the flipchart.
  • Stakeholder Mapping
  • The second step in Stakeholder Analysis is to subjectively have the groups map the stakeholders onto a chart to prioritize them based on how influential they may be to the project and/or how impacted they may be by the project. Each group should draw out the 4-block below onto a flipchart sheet:

  • Each group will then work within their groups to discuss each stakeholder and place the post-it with their name within one of the blocks based on that stakeholder’s level of influence (high or low) on the project – Can he/she/they influence resources, solutions, decisions on the project? – and the impact of the project on the stakeholder (high or low) – To what degree will the change/solution/output of the project change how the stakeholder works/behaves/interacts?
  • As a facilitator, instruct the groups that it doesn’t matter where in the block the stakeholder is placed. This exercise is not a granular one and it does not matter how close along the impact|influence axis the post-it is placed. The goal is to answer whether the influence and impact is high or low and place the post-it accordingly into a block.
  • After each group has completed the Stakeholder Mapping they can report back to the full team. As facilitator, you can work with a larger 4-block and collect the stakeholder post-its in a central location.  This process will allow for the consolidation of duplicate stakeholders across groups. As a group reports back and another group has that stakeholder on their chart they can just remove it and place it to the side.
  • Once all groups have reported out, the central 4-block will have a complete listing of stakeholders and their location on the Stakeholder Mapping.
  • Ask the full group the following questions based on the C.O.C. model:
  • Clarification – Is there anything on the board that you don’t understand that needs clarification?
  • Omissions – Is there anything that you believe is missing from the board?
  • Challenge – Is there anything you want to challenge on the board – something you disagree with.
  • Stakeholder Management Plan
  • Stakeholder Management Planning is quite easy at this point since the group has done the major lifting.
  • Based on the location of the stakeholder post-it on the 4-block we have a plan as to how we will handle the particular stakeholder.
  • Manage Closely – Stakeholders with high impact and high influence can be considered your key stakeholders.  As indicated by the title, your will want to work with these individuals and\or groups more closely to better understand their needs, concerns, etc. You will communicate with them often and they will have a higher level of input into project decision-making. If they are positive influencers you will want to leverage them and use them to advocate for the project.
  • Keep Informed – High impact, low influence stakeholders will need to be communicated with often so they are well-informed as to what the changes are that are coming their way. Additionally, give them an opportunity to provide feedback to the project team so they have a sense of being able to contribute to the changes impact them. Projects are about change. As much as we can manage the change for those impacted by it the better it will be received.
  • Keep Satisfied – High influencers, low impacts are those stakeholders that are not necessarily on the receiving end of the project change, but have some stake in the project. Again, these influences can be positive influencers which you will want to leverage. Otherwise, they may be somehow against the project and you will need to sell them on the benefits.
  • Monitor – Low impacts, low influencers are recognized as stakeholders, but from a project management standpoint, will only require keeping an eye on throughout the project life-cycle to see if their influence or impact level shifts.
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Getting things done through others can be the most satisfying or the most frustrating part of our work life.

As a Project Manager, I am often responsible for reporting to stakeholders on the progress the team is making on the project. My job is a whole lot easier when the individuals accountable for the work get the work done when they committed to get it done, at the quality expected by the organization.

Things get difficult when that work doesn’t get done as committed to.  As the the person accountable for reporting status my role becomes a bit of a verbal balancing act. I have to let my stakeholders know that the work that was committed to get done by a certain date is not done. At the same time I can’t throw the team member under the bus who failed to deliver the work as promised. The whole thing starts to boil over for me when the person who failed to deliver is unapologetic and dismissive of letting the team down.

The above scenario isn’t a singular anecdote from one frustrating project. In my 17 years of leading projects I’ve seen it occur many times.  As the Project Manager, I have a responsibility to work with the challenging party. Sometimes, the organization itself enables the behavior. There are tools to help the Project Manager, such as RACI tables (Responsible | Accountable | Consulted | Informed.) But tools only take us so far.

I suggest that creating a strong culture of accountability will significantly increase project success. Aligning individual performance appraisal with project performance helps. Enlist the help of the team member’s manager to ensure that she is aware of what their direct report is accountable for on the project and determine a realistic game plan for successful delivery.  Be sure that the team member is aware that his lack of accountability impacts the entire team and doesn’t go unnoticed.

What has been your experience and what has worked for you?

While driving in to work today I was hit again (and again) by the fact that many of us operate from a set of disparate ground rules.

For example, while two lanes are merging into one, my ground rule is that we take turns. One car from lane 1, one car from lane 2, and so on.  This morning (and other mornings) I observed that other people have different ground rules – or at least a different understanding of how the rules operate.

One opposing view is “If there is a pause in the action I will try to fit my car in the lane whether it is my lane’s turn or not.”  Yet another is, “I will wait until there is an ocean’s width of space so as not to disturb the magnetic field resonance surrounding my car.”

Many other examples exist in real life:

  • 15 item express lane
  • 4 way stop signs
  • No turn on red
  • No left turn
  • No stopping
  • No talking during the movie
  • No cell phone use

Everyone applies there own interpretations to the rules. So…why the post?

The reason is you may want to take this same set of paradigms and challenge the assumptions that underlie the ground rules from which your teams operate. Ask yourself:

  • Are your team’s ground rules been written down\agreed upon?
  • Are they understood by all? Really understood?
  • Have any assumptions about the rules been tested?
  • Do you review them at each meeting?
  • Does the team take responsibility for them?