Gain Project Support from Leery Stakeholders

December 18, 2013

project support

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:

  1. Produce a compelling project mission statement based on real needs to help the customer clarify their need and the response
  2. Create a meaningful current state and future state comparison of their process and uncover nuances they didn’t know
  3. Base your requirements on the customer’s new business process to help control scope creep
  4. 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.

  1. Decide how you will handle risk on your project in general.
  2. Educate stakeholders on risk basics, definitions and risk components.
  3. Identify actual risks, using inputs from your mission statement, deliverables structure, requirements, etc.
  4. Quantify those risks: their probability, their potential impact
  5. Prioritize the risks and discuss potential responses with stakeholders and team members.
  6. Continue to monitor the risks as they arise, change, and disappear over the course of the project.
  7. 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.

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About The Author

Jack has 20 years of professional training experience, including instructional design, content development, classroom instruction and online instruction. He has extensive knowledge of the current Project Management Institute (PMI)® standards for project, program and portfolio management. Jack has prepared over 500 project managers for the PMP® exam and teaches project management fundamentals and project leadership. Jack’s brings real world project management experiences in the classroom through his 20 plus years of consulting in project management. He has experience in pharmaceutical, manufacturing, higher education, and financial industries. He is a seasoned project management practitioner experienced in team development while leading complex enterprise technology, vendor management, change management and business process improvement projects. Jack is the author of two project management books, The Strategic Project Leader: Mastering Service-based Project Leadership, available on Amazon. “... a truly uplifting book with a self-directed plan to build leadership competencies and recommended tools for establishing compatibility and trust that allows project leaders to truly change the world by connecting their values with their work.” —Dr. Tony Alessandra, author of The Platinum Rule and Charisma Jack’s second book, Project Management for Non Project Managers was published in 2012 by AMACOM. “a great book that will enable managers to understand the value of project management and how they must contribute to a successful project…” John M. Muraski, MS University of Wisconsin College of Business Jack is passionate about using project management to effect positive organizational change. He enjoys consulting, training and mentoring project stakeholders and teams seeking to spearhead organizational change. He has designed a project leadership program based on The Strategic Project Leader to help project managers build their leadership and communication skills.

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