Managing projects and programmes differs based on the objectives each tends to have.
Where project management focuses on one specific element to address a particular business process, programme management not only has a greater monetary value but also a wider range of people involved, each with varying agendas. Indeed, running a programme is not about running a bigger project; it means dealing with factors that are more complex at the same time that you’re less hands-on and managing more. Programme management demands a greater reliance on a lot more people and therefore you need to have the right team around you.
But what knowledge and approaches do you need to use to achieve effective stakeholder management? I think it’s based on three main elements:
- Knowing and understanding the key stakeholders, what they’re trying to achieve and how to influence them while managing conflict and communication
- Building relationships and trust
- Having a clear communications plan.
Knowing your stakeholders
This is about finding out who the key stakeholders are: who are the influencers? Who is ambivalent? Who should you keep at arms length? Who wants it to fail? What this requires is a stakeholder map to establish who is for and against the project or programme.
What follows from that is a good stakeholder plan which involves:
- Holding all-important kick-off meetings where you get face to face with people as early as possible in the process
- Talking to people, to discover what they want and how you’ll need to manage them. This is certainly not a time to be introverted
- Sitting down with the Project Managers to see how you can leverage their relationship with stakeholders
- Amending the stakeholder plan constantly as people’s roles change alongside their relationship with you.
Building relationships and trust
For a project or programme to succeed, you need to be an extension of the stakeholder – their representative voice on the project or programme team. Making that work depends on how you interact with people. And that is about neither command and control nor micro-managing. Think how you make friends in life: you find common ground and gradually build rapport with people. This is something that’s difficult to teach but you will pick up through experience. Unfortunately, too many people fail because they can’t build good relationships.
A good communications plan is necessary to manage stakeholders up, down and across an organization. In fact, about 90% of the job is communication, which is vital when you’re trying to convey a long-term business strategy that will involve changing a multitude of things.
Some of the elements in a good communications plan are:
- Scheduling meetings, having an agenda, terms of reference, minutes taken and actions allocated
- Discussing budget, risks and issues and what progress you need to make – in other words, clarity on what you need from stakeholders
- Sharing a weekly update via email and phone call which includes plans, progress and problems – material for discussion that is constantly updated.
- Maintaining the communications plan in order to retain tight control of progress and to avoid the project or programme falling apart.
Being a good communicator also means being an honest communicator. You have to recognize that things do go wrong and, when they do, the trust and relationships you’ve built with stakeholders puts you in a better position to ask for a favour.
See our PRINCE2® and Managing Successful Progammes (MSP®) sections for more information about project and programme management.
Have you found that you use different approaches to managing stakeholders on the projects and programmes you have worked on? Do you agree that knowledge and communication are key to successful delivery? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.