Top Ten Reasons Why Projects Fail – Reason #4 (continued)

Posted on: March 23rd, 2012 by admin

Stakeholder Management (Part Two)

So, duly chastened, my team and I went home that night then returned to the office in Manhattan on Monday morning. Meanwhile, I had to report something to my boss. And so I told him what went on and what our speculation about Tom’s motives was. Needless to say he hit the roof. And he started making phone calls. Which led to more phone calls. And then Tom started making phone calls to his superiors. (Recall his immediate superior was out of town). And then those folks started calling me wondering why they hadn’t been contacted in the first place, regardless of who was doing the upgrade. And these people were not at all happy. Why? Because they felt they had never been consulted beforehand. And truthfully, they hadn’t. I didn’t even know they existed. And I guess if I wasn’t in such a damn rush to get the job done I would have found out who these people were and gotten them into a room beforehand.

But I tell you this story to illustrate one fact with two important components. That fact is that you must identify your stakeholders early on in the project. (PMI suggests you identify them during Initiating). Had I identified that there were more stakeholders than just Tom and his boss, we could have then involved them in a meeting upfront to let them know exactly what we were doing and when. And then perhaps Tom might not have been able to pull off his routine with so many eyes watching. He would have had no one to complain to as they would have understood how the job was to be done. So the first important component is to identify all your stakeholders.

Once you’ve identified them, you can figure out how to communicate to them via the Communications Management Plan (see Reason #3). And the other important component is that if at all possible you must endeavor to recognize hostile stakeholders. Some people, for whatever reason, just do not want you to succeed. Maybe as in Tom’s case it’s because he felt threatened. I’ve seen other situations where a manager had a long-standing feud with my boss and so did everything he could to circumvent her. And even in this investment bank where I was working, the engineering side (where I worked) and the business side did not get along. Needless to say I considered this a toxic environment and when asked to sign up for another six months, politely declined.

So, identify your stakeholders, know when and how to reach out to them, communicate bad news early and always manage their expectations. PMI considers this so important that they have added one new Knowledge Area for the upcoming PMBOK Fifth Edition. The name of the new chapter? Stakeholder Management.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we did finally get the site in New Jersey upgraded. And the bank did in fact upgrade all 17,000 PCs, long after I was gone. But I maintain it could have gone a lot better overall if correct stakeholder management had been employed up front. And I maintain further that the biggest problem I have encountered on projects is not that we don’t know what to do. It’s that I have sometimes in the past thrown out best practices for speed. And in every case, have paid the price.

(Stay tuned for Reason Five, Estimating)

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