7 Keys to Project Stakeholder Management from the #PMChat Community

Two Wrikers helped host a #PMChat discussion on Twitter last Friday, where a community of project managers comes together once a week to discuss and share knowledge on various topics related to project management.

Our team asked everyone to share advice on best practices and common roadblocks in a challenging project management area: stakeholder management. Experienced project managers from around the world shared their wisdom with us, and now we've collected their thoughts here for you. Implement their advice and improve stakeholder management for your next project.

7 Important Lessons in Project Stakeholder Management

You can read many of the best tweets from the #PMChat on stakeholder management here, but if you don't have time to scroll through them all, we've summarized the key takeaways below.

1. Different project stakeholders to keep on your radar

  • Your project stakeholders include EVERYONE who has an interest in the project outcome, including team members, sponsors, and end users.
  • The stakeholders most often neglected: people impacted by your project. This includes (but is not limited to) customers, employees not on the project team, contractors, suppliers, unions, shareholders, financiers, government, special interest groups, community, the general public, and future generations.
  • Keep a close eye on stakeholders who approve deliverables, and those who can stop or pull funding from your project. And their influencers.
  • Suggestion to keep them all straight: identify and rank your stakeholders according to their level of influence and how much they will be impacted by the outcome.

2. Tips to motivate and lead project members who don't report to you

  • Highlight the purpose of your project at the very beginning.
  • Seek project stakeholders' input in the early planning stages. Find out what they think is important. Get them to buy in early.
  • Take advice seriously to make sure everyone feels respected. Treat others the way they want to be treated, not the way you'd want to be treated.
  • Praise when someone has improved and made a difference in the project. Give credit where credit is due.
  • Good project managers need to be behavioral scientists; learn what makes people tick and use it to motivate them!
  • Bribe them with candy. ;)

3. Getting stakeholders to dedicate time to your project

  • Build a good relationship with stakeholders before you need it. When the time to make requests comes, have a one-on-one conversation (in person ideally).
  • Talk with key stakeholders early to understand their perspective. Make the project about the customer and the business, not you or the individual stakeholder.
  • Clearly outline the project outcome, everyone's roles on the road to project success, and the benefits for their party. Ensure they've bought in to your project by highlighting shared objectives and how your visions align.
  • Ask the most reliable people (and main stakeholders) for a short period of time, rather than asking more people for more time.
  • Give reasonable time estimates, so they know exactly what they are getting themselves into. Respect that they have other priorities, and learn how your project can fit into that bigger picture.

4. Keep project sponsors engaged

  • Meet your project sponsors in person, show your passion for success, and be the enthusiastic cheerleader for your project.
  • Set clear expectations and build a sponsor roadmap with each project sponsor. Include what they should do with the project team, managers, etc. Get them actively involved in the project and its outcome.
  • Give consistent updates, with real numbers and results, geared toward their interests in the project.
  • When there is good news or press, point the spotlight at your champions, instead of at yourself.

5. Ways to manage and avoid negative scope creep

  • Make your project plans clear and accessible. When new requests come in, highlight the impact of those requests on your project schedule.
  • Have your stakeholders share their project goals with each other. Bring everyone together to discuss competing or creeping requests. As a project manager, your role is to unify and clarify.
  • Get everyone to sign off on the project plan. Once in the beginning with your project charter, and throughout the project when requirements change.
  • Write your initial project plan in terms of problems being tackled (and what is not being tackled), instead of just stating what work is being done.
  • Invest in expectations management, requirements management, and — most importantly — change management.

6. Proactively identifying and preventing potential issues

  • Study proper risk management: imagine worst-case scenarios and their solutions. Provide risk management workshops, lessons learned, and historical data if possible.
  • Solicit feedback on potential issues from current team members, and people who have worked on similar projects.
  • Trust your gut. If something feels off, investigate and act immediately.

7. Best ways to communicate with stakeholders during the project

  • Early and often! Informally, as well as formal status updates. Repeat your reports and communicate even if you have "nothing new" to say.
  • Communicate with people in the way that best suits their style, not your style: face-to-face and phone calls, or virtually communicate through email, weekly reports, monthly bulletins. Don't assume everyone wants to communicate in the same way.
  • Tailor reports to suit the project stakeholders' interests. When they give feedback, listen to what they have to say.
  • Avoid status update meetings that waste everyone's time. Bring the group together to discuss the project, and "don't be lame."

More Advice on Stakeholder Management

What did you learn about project stakeholder management from our #PMChat? What did everyone fail to mention? Share more advice in the comments below, so everyone can learn from your expertise.

If you're interested in reading the entire #PMChat on stakeholder management, funny asides and all, we organized the great stakeholder management insights and advice from project managers for your easy reading on Storify.

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