Stakeholder Management for Project Managers guide, Managing clients tips, UAE property construction advice
Stakeholder Management – a concern for Project Managers
3 November 2021
Article for e-architect by Romi Sebastian, Senior Project Manager, UAE
Stakeholder and Client management has long been a concern for project managers. Stakeholders and project managers don’t always think in the same way. Project managers must find ways to face stakeholder expectations that don’t align with the genuine situation on a project.
In my experience working on projects in the Middle East, I would like to establish some of the most common issues that project managers face on a daily basis and how these issues could be resolved competently:
Minor additions versus scope creep
Stakeholder/Client viewpoint: The stakeholder thinks from time to time that all he/she is asking for are a few new little requirements. Since these changes are considered minor, why then inconvenience ourselves by going through the formal process of change management and gaining approval?
Actual situation: Project managers recognize that these “little” requirements will ultimately add up and force project resources to work on undocumented requirements, which transforms into loss of time and money.
Resolution: Project scope management needs to be stringent when project teams work towards confirming requirements with stakeholders. To alleviate all misunderstandings, the project manager should communicate to all the stakeholders about the change management process and that no changes will be accepted without going through the agreed approval process. All impacts on Time, Cost and Quality need to conveyed in a transparent manner. Project managers should recognize scope creep and monitor if their work includes addressing any undocumented requirements.
Disbelief versus lack of engagement
Stakeholder/Client viewpoint: The stakeholders have not been briefed on the status of the project for a while; the stakeholder deduces that the project manager must be hiding or delaying negative project information.
Actual situation: The project manager did not conduct a proper stakeholder analysis and information distribution plan to engage the stakeholders throughout the project period.
Resolution: Early on, Project Managers should come up with a list of all of the individuals involved in and impacted by the project. Then, identify and filter a group of key stakeholders based on their influence, power and closeness to the final project operations. To add to this, prepare a communications and information distribution plan. The project manager’s job always includes communication. Let stakeholders know what is going on from time to time; especially regarding project elements that impact their survival and operations.
Project failure versus unrealistic expectations
Stakeholder/Client viewpoint: The team isn’t hitting every milestone on the dates specified, so the project is obviously a failure.
Actual Situation: Project managers face a fairly straightforward goal – oversee an effort to make sure it ends up delivering value to the business. This is often only equated to making sure projects don’t fail. Those very specific project milestones are created months ahead of time, and not all requirements can be known when a project is launched. Changes, risks and impacts need to be record and studied throughout the course of the project. The project may still produce good results.
Resolution: Project managers must be clear and transparent when managing stakeholder expectations. Explain to stakeholders that a “project plan” is a “projection” of what you expect to happen in the future. Following an outdated project plan will merely result in failure. Project managers should communicate to stakeholders what they can expect regarding immediate milestones. As soon as a milestone seems to be at risk, this fact must be communicated immediately.
Explain the reasons and communicate any new plans based on updated project priorities, risks and changes made. Understand that Failure isn’t often bad. Sometimes it is simply the result of creativity and ambition. Not every good idea will lead to a successful project, and creating a culture where new ideas are encouraged can create meaningful innovation on a consistent basis, even if some projects do end up failing on some fronts based on initial objectives.
The key here is to differentiate between projects that fail completely and those that still create value for the business. These are instances where talent management and organizational strategies should come into action. Being able to distinguish between projects that focus on innovation vs. those that are needed to keep the business running profitably is key.
Stakeholder project wishlist versus balancing constraints
Stakeholder/Client viewpoint: Projects can be done quickly, inexpensively and at a high quality—without sacrificing any constraints.
Actual Situation: If a project is completed quickly and inexpensively, quality could suffer. A project team can conduct high-quality work in a short amount of time, but stakeholders should expect increased costs as a result of added resources. The disagreement often occurs as a result of executives making promises to their stakeholders without involving the project manager/project team members—and this is particularly noticeable during project kick-off when stakeholders bring their unrealistic expectations to the table.
Resolution: To overcome the challenge, the project team should hold workshops with key stakeholders from various groups to uncover solutions. In addition, appoint change agents within the organization to educate project team members on the project’s benefits and impact. If project teams are to produce quality deliverables, stakeholders need to be educated on the risk of “quick and smudged” projects versus “well-planned, quality” projects. Project Managers should be well aware of its constraints/ limitations in terms of project delivery and convey these to the stakeholders in a timely and transparent manner.
Romi Sebastian is a Senior Project Manager brought up in the UAE and has been working in the Middle East with top tier firms for the past 2 decades. He holds a strong interest in the fields of Organic architecture and Bio-Mimetics. Apart from his passions for charcoal rendering, Romi writes on a broad range of subjects for national newspapers, magazines and web-journals.
Romi Sebastian is a Senior Project Manager brought up in the UAE and has been working in the Middle East with top tier firms for the past two decades. He holds a strong interest in the fields of Organic architecture and Bio-Mimetics. Apart from his passions for charcoal rendering, Romi writes on a broad range of subjects for national newspapers, magazines and web-journals.
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