A quick guide to dealing with difficult stakeholders

Posted by Niall Sullivan

30-Jan-2017 08:00:00

A quick guide to dealing with difficult stakeholdersIn every project, there will be times when managing certain stakeholders will be a challenge. Whether they are failing to engage fully with your project, or are not open to collaboration, it is essential that you keep your stakeholders onside in order for your project to run smoothly.

However, it is not always easy to balance the differing demands of the various groups, especially when there is so much at stake. This blog post will look at some of the more common complaints and hopefully make dealing with difficult stakeholders a smoother process for you.

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“The last project failed. Why should this one work?”

Previously we have discussed the reasons for project failure and found that only 40% of projects meet schedule, budget and quality goals. So, it is little wonder that stakeholders are sometimes a little sceptical when you say that your project is going to be a success.

For this reason, it is critical that you set clear expectations at the beginning of the project. There is nothing wrong with aiming high, but you don’t want to over-sell yourself and risk not meeting your stakeholders’ expectations. However, setting the bar too low will ultimately mean that the quality of the work will suffer.

The key here is to determine what end result would be considered a success for each stakeholder group and then align them to the overall goals of the project. Having this laid out will give the various parties clear expectations of what they should be doing to help ensure that the project is completed in full.

“I don’t understand what this project is about”

When there are so many different internal and external stakeholders to manage, it can sometimes seem overwhelming to assign each of them a role and convey the purpose of the project.

However, not doing this can lead to disagreements and confusion over the direction the project should take which could ultimately lead to its failure.

Online collaboration software is the perfect platform to overcome this. You can create separate teams for the different stakeholder groups and then provide only the information and instructions that are relevant to their role. This ranges from setting them specific tasks, to creating discussions and blogs to help provide the context that they need to understand what the project is about.

“My last project manager didn’t listen to any of my ideas.”

When managing a project, there will be times when stakeholders will want to express their opinion. Whether this is about a certain process that they disagree with or about a certain aspect of the project they're unsure about, it is important to provide them with a platform to give feedback. If not, they may feel that their opinion is not valued and therefore lose motivation to do their job.

Although you can retrieve this feedback via email or face-to-face meetings, there are more secure and private ways to do this.

Using a secure, online workspace, you can create surveys so you can receive feedback from your stakeholders anonymously. Once you have this, you can then use the supplied information to improve the way in which you are managing the project. Your stakeholders will also be happy, as they will feel like their opinions are valued and that they're empowered to do their job.

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Topics: stakeholder engagement, project management, online collaboration