The Ultimate Difficult Stakeholders
Herding Cats with PRINCE2
Let me introduce myself - I’m Tom, a Project Manager. I recently started in my new role and my team are…well, they are a little hairier than I first expected. And when the job description said strong stakeholder management, I didn’t realize this meant deflecting regular scratches to the face.
My team’s BAU activities include licking themselves incessantly and sitting on the photocopier – so project managing them has turned out to be quite a handful.
Luckily, I discovered PRINCE2. Using the method’s seven principles, themes and processes I was able to keep these difficult stakeholders in check – and get our project completed within scope, on time and on budget.
Here is how the seven PRINCE2 principles kept these challenging stakeholders on track;
1. Continued business justification:
A PRINCE2 project needs justification from the first pounce – and this needs to remain valid throughout the project. The justification is documented through a Business Case which needs to be returned to at the end of each stage to check the justification is still valid. Soft copies advised – my team keep sitting on the print out.
2. Learn from experience:
PRINCE2 project teams learn from their experience by logging lessons and applying new knowledge gained throughout the life of the project. Want to know the lesson I learned? Communal kitchens are a nightmare. Hide the milk.
3. Define roles and responsibilities:
For a project to run smoothly it needs three defined stakeholder groups: the business – who endorse the project and ensure that the investment offers value for money; users (or customers), who after the project is complete will use and benefit from the product; and suppliers – the team who provide the resources and expertise to complete the project.
Outlining the Tabbys from the Toms helps to prevent any of the team from slipping up on their responsibilities.
4. Manage by stages:
The beauty of PRINCE2 is in its flexibility. Breaking up the project into a number of stages enables the business to control the project based on its complexity, risk and business priority. With such…erm, ‘agile’, colleagues...short stages are a must.
5. Manage by exception:
My team are all very proud creatures - they hate the idea of being micromanaged! Luckily PRINCE2 helped me by providing tolerances for each stage. Tolerances outline the level of give-or-take available for: time, cost, quality, scope, risk and the benefits. Management only needed to get involved when tolerances are exceeded.
In our case, we also had tolerances in place for appropriate levels of hair left in communal areas – this month it’s forecasted to exceed.
6. Focus on products:
Now my team may be small, but when the focus is right their natural instinct comes alive. Keep them focused on the outputs and the standard of quality expected for this and the project will be a success. Hovering feathered wands over my colleagues' desk also works!
7. Tailor to the environment:
Whilst my team were sad to discover that tailoring in the PRINCE2 context would not involve any balls of string to play with – it did allow us the flexibility to scale down the PRINCE2 method to suit our bizarre working environment and ensure the project controls were suitably aligned to the complexity and capability of the project.
Project Management can often feel like herding cats. But using the PRINCE2 principles, themes and processes I was able to take an unruly group of bobcats and turn them into a slick operation. I didn’t quite manage to stop the self-cleaning at the desk, but hey – PRINCE2 didn’t offer any guidance on that.