(This post contains affiliate hyperlinks. Please read my full disclosure.
Anna Lund Jepsen and Pernille Ekerod’s book Project Stakeholder Management. In their book Project Stakeholder Management Pernille and Anna Lund Jepsen argue that stakeholders are often overlooked and projects fail.
They write that “a recurring theme in these failings is project managers who haven’t taken sufficient into account the motivations and interests of the persons or entities which can affect or be impacted by the project.”
This is the basic premise of the book: a more engaged community will increase your chances of project success. Even if the project is delivered successfully, it’s possible to have a project fail due to unhappy stakeholders, budget cuts, or other similar situations.
This book is about managing stakeholders. But what does it actually mean? Stakeholder management is defined as “all purposeful stakeholder activities to support your project’s success.”
Fine. But how does this translate into concrete actions for project managers?
Plan stakeholder interactions
The book covers behavioural theory, which can help you understand what motivates and drives your stakeholders’ behaviour and how you might influence it. Eskerod and Jepsen note that project stakeholders will have their interests and perspectives on the project. “This means that they will not necessarily contribute, in their own account as you may wish.” If this is not clear, you are probably not a good project manager. Although it seems obvious, I think the book must start with this.
The authors point out that understanding the thinking of stakeholders is not enough. You must also:
Plan ahead for your stakeholder interactions
Methodically approach stakeholder analysis
Keep track of your information about stakeholders.
Stakeholder management cannot be left to chance. It must be a major part of your project planning.
They say that stakeholder management is about being proactive and prepared. Although it might seem futile to plan stakeholder interactions when everything is changing, they explain that it will help you make informed decisions and respond appropriately to changes. They write:
We have seen many problems with stakeholders during projects, even when resources and time were spent on stakeholder management planning during the project planning phase. This was due to changes in the coalition or perceptions and the plan wasn’t validated or updated during the project’s course. This meant that too much time and resources were wasted on stakeholders who required little attention, while too little was spent on stakeholders who were more important and needed attention. In some cases, stakeholders have disengaged because they felt neglected, forgotten, or unfairly treated.
You should therefore review your stakeholder strategy often to ensure that you are on the right track.
Chapter 4 outlines a model to analyze stakeholder relationships. The authors outline 3 steps.
1. Identify. Jepsen and Eskerod stress that it doesn’t matter if someone is a stakeholder. It is the way they interpret it that matters. If someone believes they are a stakeholder then they are. To make planning easier, group stakeholders that are identified in this step.
2. Assess. What is their contribution? Find out their needs.