5 Stakeholder Questions Project Teams Don’t Want to Hear

PMP®s are the source of knowledge for anyone curious about the project’s planning and execution details, and it’s normal for the team to field a steady stream of questions from stakeholders. Queries commonly cover a range of areas, including the expected sequence and timing of activities, vendor selection criteria and contract status, work disruption impacts—it’s all overseen by the project office.

Aside from these everyday questions, there are also inquiries that come through now and then that make PMP®s cringe. Some people are simply looking for information they haven’t received (or that they overlooked). Others questions, however, are age-old examples of stakeholders fishing for data as a way to advance their own agenda, whether that’s pushing for greater sway over how the project is executed or trying to change a part of the project they don’t like.

Has your project team received any of these classic stakeholder questions?

1 – Have you told my boss about this?
PMP®s may cringe because this question could signal several issues likely to cause ongoing challenges. On the plus side, it may point only to the stakeholder’s lack of knowledge about who was involved in developing the project’s scope. Unfortunately, there’s also a possibility the questioner has weak communication channels with their department’s leadership and is unaware of the project’s planned impacts. This could lead to recurring problems for the project team as they must juggle an information flow that contains an obvious bottleneck. A more difficult scenario is the question is nothing more than a veiled attempt to use their boss’s position to influence how the project is managed.

2 – Is this the best price we can get for this item or service?
Sometimes it’s an innocent question. It may be triggered by the stakeholder’s background in a particular region where pricing structures were different, or it may result from their inexperience in procuring specific materials or niche labor support. In other instances, though, it sets of alarm bells for PMP®s because it opens the door—in the stakeholder’s mind—to additional negotiations on pricing or even project scope.

3 – Is it possible to add ____?
Scope creep alert! If the stakeholder wasn’t part of the group that set the original scope, maybe they’re just seeking clarification on what’s included in the project and what isn’t. On the other hand, PMP®s may be quickly overcome with dread when it’s a sponsor or member of the executive team asking. At that point, the request probably looks like a prelude to expanding the scope mid-stream by someone with enough authority to actually make that happen.

4 – Can we shift the schedule for this activity?
This question is sure to elicit groans from the project team, but before everyone shifts into defensive mode, remember the situation might be less nefarious than it sounds. Maybe something unexpected has come up and this individual just needs a bit of help reflowing their group’s activities. The project office will need to do some digging to determine if the request has merit—and which contingency plan can be activated to keep the project on track—or if this is just one stakeholder’s last-minute scheme to push back on a schedule they didn’t like in the first place.

5 – Why are we doing this project?
Could it be an honest inquiry from a stakeholder who’s trying to come up to speed? Yes. More often, though, it’s posed in a way that seeks to undermine the project team’s mission by implying the project’s goals are unimportant, or that the final objectives miss the mark in terms of satisfying the organization’s needs. Groan.

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