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5 Stakeholder Management Tips: (Tip #1 You Don’t Have to Manage Them)

Engaging the stakeholders on a project is essential! There are a number of simple ways to keep them engaged, positive, and empowered throughout. You might be surprised that it’s actually less work than you might think. So read on to find out what the best ways to align and inspire your stakeholders for long-term project success.

 Tip #1. Don’t Manage Them

It can be tough to be a stakeholder. Very rarely do project managers acknowledge that fact. Everyone comes at a project from their own perspective with their own ideals and projected results. Taking a moment to remember that these are individual people who don’t need to be manhandled can help the process immensely. That empathy will help them manage themselves.

Tip #2. Map Them Out

In the very early stages of the project, you should identify all the relevant stakeholders that will be involved, and their role as well. It’s important to do this or you may face the problem of dealing with more stakeholders with potentially disruptive agendas joining after the project starts. Understanding who is in play and limiting yourself to those stakeholders helps keep the overall process manageable. If you allow stakeholders to come and go within their roles freely, you open up your project to vulnerability and chaos.

Tip #3. Lock Them Down Early

Once you know who your stakeholders are and what their roles will be, ensure that they are all in agreement on the project’s deliverables and what their individual commitments are. Clearly defining and getting buy-in on project narrative, deliverables, and roles will help to make sure everyone is on the same page throughout the duration of the project. If necessary, make sure you have their consensus and commitments in writing, and outline the rules of engagement that will direct the course of action throughout the project. As things will change invariably over time, having that security in terms of their buy-in will help smooth out any rough patches that appear over time.

Tip #4. Communication is Key

Of course, when working with a variety of stakeholders, it’s important to practice good communication. This can be something that should be defined at the start of the project. Establishing communication channels and protocols will help make sure your communication is effective, open, and transparent. Determining the frequency or method of communication will come naturally depending on the individual needs of the project team but, in general, communication should be concise and focused on project progress and value.

Use your communication as a frequent opportunity to keep the project vision accessible and in sight. This helps reduce the chance of scope creep, and ensures that all stakeholders have the overall goals in mind.

Tip #5. Agree on the Definition of “Done”

Every stakeholder on a project likely has a different idea of what the end product should look like. But it’s important to agree on what “done” means to the team as a whole. That way the project will stay on track and headed toward the same end point.