Sign in
  • Blog
  • Project management
  • Programme management
  • Stakeholder management
  • MSP

Author  Pedro Bertacchini – Project Manager PwC

October 26, 2021 |

 3 min read

  • Blog
  • Project management
  • Programme management
  • Stakeholder management
  • MSP

The pros and cons of flexibility in project management is a topic I debate daily with clients and colleagues. While Covid-19 forced us to adapt to a new reality that offers a lot of flexibility and opportunities to be more agile, it means that stakeholder management becomes more challenging.

More than ever, planning has become a major exercise to counter the speed of change and all the variables that can impact projects: staff getting sick, people having to isolate, inappropriate working from home structures, broadband not powerful enough, etc. These issues can affect service providers and customers equally.

So, what are the challenges of stakeholder management and how can we mitigate them?

The reassured stakeholder

Stakeholder management is all about giving reassurance that a change initiative is being carefully coordinated and you – as the project manager – are watching and monitoring closely the main aspects of the project.

Expectations tend to be too optimistic – focusing solely on the outcome which benefits each stakeholder – without seeing the big picture and all the affected parties. Stakeholders often assume we’ve got all the resources, support and time needed to deliver the project, when this is not necessarily the reality.

Managing stakeholder expectations from the beginning of a project is essential because uncertainty means that results may be open-ended. Explaining this is not only best practice for effective communication but is also crucial to mitigate lack of leadership, rumours and misinterpretation after the initial stages in the project.

Some of the issues that can derail the relationship with stakeholders if not managed properly are:

  • Unpredictable changes
  • Stakeholders influencing other stakeholders
  • Time-consuming meetings that reduce stakeholder engagement and trust
  • Multiple and diverging interests
  • Change of priorities/resource allocation

Best practice approaches to stakeholder management

In Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) 5th edition, the techniques outlined for stakeholders are:

  • Developing an overall approach
  • Devising a stakeholder engagement and communications plan
  • Prioritizing stakeholders
  • Making it a priority to prepare for change

In practice, this means having a stakeholder management plan which considers their characteristics and motivations. A good way to do this is through a stakeholder matrix which will provide an importance vs influence analysis for all the involved stakeholders. You should be asking questions like: who are the main stakeholders, what is their level of involvement and influence and their level of skill and engagement?

After the analysis is done you should have a clear picture of the key players, their interests and impact over the engagement. This should provide enough data to prepare your plan and mitigation actions in case of any threat or issue.

Other, practical approaches to stakeholder management which address present challenges include:

  •  Having more regular risk assessments to react quickly to unpredictable changes. A playbook and a log can be extremely efficient on those occasions, as you can always revert to those documents whenever a risk is likely to become an issue.
  • Increasing the regularity of meetings but making them shorter, which optimizes everybody’s time, while offering information in bite-sized chunks makes it easier to absorb.
  • Keeping everyone in the loop by issuing regular updates in short, bullet point emails to communicate key changes rapidly. This will reduce the volume of emails and keep updates concise.

The organization theme within MSP 5th edition now contains a re-focused stakeholder engagement section, with guidance to support plans for engagement. This, for me, reflects its ongoing importance in projects and programmes in the face of uncertain and rapid change.