Project support success is more likely to occur with an active involvement from your sponsor and key stakeholders. Projects stakeholders can be left feeling leery due to project uncertainty, performing organizations poor track record and not understanding project management basics. With these four steps, get customers and key stakeholders to buy into your project management plan and be more active participants in your project.
Articulate the real customer need and business case for the project.
Take time for the necessary discovery process of dialogue and collaboration between you and your customer. The discussion might include, “Why does capacity need to increase or cost need to decrease?” “How much does it need to increase, and how will this be measured?” “What if this need is not met?” “Who ultimately benefits from this change?” With clear answers, you’ll be able to lead your customer through these critical steps:
- Produce a compelling project mission statement based on real needs to help the customer clarify their need and the response
- Create a meaningful current state and future state comparison of their process and uncover nuances they didn’t know
- Base your requirements on the customer’s new business process to help control scope creep
- Help your customer develop or evolve their business case for your project
Stay focused on project deliverables.
Educate your stakeholder on why the project team must stay focused on deliverables and how this benefits everyone. Create a deliverable structure for your stakeholders that provides a portrait of the work, preferably using graphics and with an appropriate level of detail for the situation. This planning document is built with and for the customer, key stakeholders, and team members. It is essential for defining the scope and then executing and controlling the project.
Start by identifying the final product of the project. Then, identify the major components of the product, service, or result to be created. Third, break out the major deliverables within each component. Each should be a tangible, distinct deliverable. And then review and refine this structure with your stakeholders.
Understand key project dependencies.
With the portrait of the project in hand, you’re ready to tell your stakeholders the story of the work: the high-level dependencies between those deliverables. What work must be done before other work can start? What are the critical relationships between deliverables? This highlights critical decision points and identifies when customer and key stakeholder sign-offs occur. And it provides insight into risks. Before getting into the weeds of scheduling, though, start with a simple, user-friendly flow diagram that shows the logical progression of the project. Review this one-page document with your stakeholders by telling the story of the project. Feedback and approval from the primary stakeholders and customers is essential at this stage because customers may be very involved in sequencing and have insight into risk. Providing the story of the work can also help you negotiate scope, schedule, and cost.
Be proactive about project risk.
Although risk is considered a dirty word in many organizations, risk management should be embedded in every process in project planning. Create an environment for stakeholders in which risk can be discussed openly and prudently, and drive the discussion about business risk in particular. Articulate risks clearly as potential impacts to project objectives that can be quantified and acted upon.
- Decide how you will handle risk on your project in general.
- Educate stakeholders on risk basics, definitions and risk components.
- Identify actual risks, using inputs from your mission statement, deliverables structure, requirements, etc.
- Quantify those risks: their probability, their potential impact
- Prioritize the risks and discuss potential responses with stakeholders and team members.
- Continue to monitor the risks as they arise, change, and disappear over the course of the project.
- In every status meeting, talk about risk and propose proactive steps to control uncertainty.
For help getting your stakeholders on board with your plan, see Project Management for Non Project Managers, by Jack Ferraro, AMACOM.
For more business insights and strategies, sign up for our free management newsletter, Moving Ahead.
Refine your project management skills with AMA seminars.