Instant Project Management Pack 02 – Stakeholders


(Chinese version published on 中文版發表於敏捷進化趣)

You just moved into a new apartment and invited all your friends. At first you worry how many guests would actually show up, luckily people started to show up gradually.

it’s a great party, lots of foods, lots of laughter and of course, LOTS of alcohol! There were more people than you expected so feeling a bit crowded, fortunately you had enough stock to let alcohol flowing.People became more and more energetic and suddenly door bells rang, you guessed it’s Lawrence as he famous of being late. Sadly it’s police on your doorstep because your neighbor compliant about noise. What a way to end the wonderful party!

So what went wrong here? In project management context, you overlooked biggest stakeholder could put an end to the party, your new fussy neighbor!

Lesson learned: Stakeholders may not have ability to help you, but they have just enough power to make your suffer!

Roles in Project Management

There are four roles when we are running a project

  1. The Almighty Project Sponsor
    1. How many:1
    2. Who support project by funding and holds political responsibility of project’s success
  2. The Magical Project Manager (PM)
    1. How many: 1
    2. Who monitor and control the project and holds direct responsibility of project’s success
  3. The Striving Team
    1. How many: couple to many
    2. Who gets their hands dirty and make things work
  4. The Critical Stakeholders
    1. How many: many to infinity
    2. Whoever has mouth


First three is easy to understand and we often only pay all attention what Project Sponsor wants, but that’s not sufficient as we learned earlier: Stakeholders may not have ability to help you, but they have just enough ability to make your suffer! (Repeated because this is important!)

Stakeholder Management

Stakeholders are anyone outside of Team, who having interest on project, or could be impacted by project, or have influence over project. There are four steps to start with.

1. List down everybody you can think of, I mean EVERYBODY

Let’s say you are going to throw a birthday party for your girlfriend Jean.

So people involved will be You, Jean, Jean’s friends, your friends, Jean’s colleagues, oh, and the fussy neighbors.

2. Identify Team Members

Project Sponsor: Who paid for? I guess it’s you.

Project Manager: Who is responsible? You again.

Project Team: Who will give you a hand? Maybe Bill and Kevin will help on grocery and clean up after party.

3. Categorize everyone else in Stakeholder Matrix

List everyone who are not Team Members, and sort them based on their interest and power to this party

Power/Interest Low Interest High Interest
High Power Jean’s best friend Fiona and Amy (You know they care more about if you are going to propose than party itself) Jean (Obviously)
Low Power Jean’s friends, Jean’s colleagues, Your friends, Fussy neighbors (Until you wake them up in the middle of night, then they move to high power) Tom (He will go to any party with alcohol)

4. Manage differently based on their group

Power/Interest Low Interest High Interest
High Power Keep Satisfied
Understand which points they care the most, and do just enough to keep them happy on those points
Manage Closely
You shall spend most of your time with this group to ensure they are happy. Project Sponsor also goes here.
Low Power Monitor
See if there are any signs that they will move to other groups
Keep Informed
Chit chat with them, they may provide valuable information to make project success.

Common Tools

1. Expectation Management

Regardless of how great the outcome is, as long as stakeholders’ expectation are higher, the project is not that successful.  Thus stakeholders’ expectation need to be understood, communicated and adjusted.

Always think how to make stakeholders surprised (In the good way), because by the end of day,  stakeholders judge project fail or success based on how they feel.

2. Communication Plan

Make a plan of who, how and how often you will communicate with, in order to keep project on track.

Common Myths

1. We shall put our best effort to satisfy every stakeholders

The reason why we categorize stakeholders is because they are not equal, we don’t need to keep everyone satisfy (even so, make friends not enemies).

 2. Let’s just pretend stakeholders’ voice are heard

Most stakeholders have insight and first hand knowledge to how project progress, and those can be valuable input to make project successful, make good use of the information.

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