Shielding Stakeholders From Project Pains

As they work to cultivate engaged sponsors and end users, some PMP®s find there are aspects of project planning and execution where stakeholders actually prefer not to be involved. These activities are often those that appear to be more administrative in nature. They are a high priority for the project team but likely little more than a disruption to those outside the Project Team.

Business team at the meeting

One way to boost customer satisfaction is to shield stakeholders from these behind-the-scenes tasks when possible. Where that isn’t feasible, a few additional strategies can help limit the draw to stakeholders’ time.

Approvals. Project teams often need to gain approval on a host of issues, including funding, scheduling work disruptions, and finalizing office locations (in the case of a remodel or relocation). If requests for these approvals are presented haphazardly, they may quickly become labeled as a nuisance by stakeholders.

Take charge of the situation by grouping approval requests and making them a proactive, rather than a reactive, issue. Strive to secure all funding approvals early in the project’s lifecycle. This limits the number of times stakeholders must make space in their schedule to review requests, while also giving the project team more finite control over funding from the very beginning. If approval requests must be presented mid-project, then identify them as a milestone on the project calendar and treat them as a task. Sponsors and high-level stakeholders will feel less like it’s a disruption and more as though it’s an expected part of their role.

Public relations. When dealing with a high-profile project or any endeavor likely to impact the public, managing media relations and other externally-facing activities is usually a given. However, the prospect of being involved in these tasks may be intimidating to most stakeholders. In many cases, it isn’t appropriate for them to be involved in them anyway, though persistent reporters and nosy employees of competing companies may not care about that.

Be diligent in shielding stakeholders from the media or other public interactions, unless those individuals have been formally appointed to act as spokespeople for the organization. To ease their concerns, your team should provide stakeholders with instructions on what to say if approached by a member of the press, or if asked potentially sensitive questions by anyone not clearly involved in the project. Proactively offer sponsors and end users talking points, or give them a stack of business cards they can hand out with the appropriate person’s contact information. These simple steps will shield them from what may be a very uncomfortable and potentially compromising interaction.

Open house events. These types of activities provide Project Teams with great marketing opportunities, but they can be stressful and highly disruptive for stakeholders. Timing is often key, as end users may be busy commissioning equipment or doing other punch list tasks, or even preparing for the next project. This could leave them with little leeway to make their area presentable. It’s also likely they won’t have a lot of free time available to act as tour guides or to provide benchmarking and other data that’s often presented as part of an open house.

One good strategy to avoid open house pain is to get it on the schedule far in advance. Work with stakeholders to identify when it would be least disruptive to hold the event. Honor this schedule by posting clear hours for the open house and sticking to them. Unless stakeholders are eager to participate, do your best to minimize their involvement. The project office should spearhead all tour and presenter duties, as well as creating information sheets, charts, maps, and related documentation.

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