Part of being a good project manager is understanding what stakeholders want and need. However, project management is a constant learning process in itself, and no matter how experienced you are it is always worth reminding yourself that it is not always the formal processes that will make your project a success. This is especially relevant when it comes to stakeholders who are such an important part of every single project. So how do you really determine what stakeholders want?
The Same As Everyone Else – How The Project Benefits Them
No matter how nice a person is, deep down they will always want to know what the benefit of anything is to them when they invest their time, resources or money. The benefits of a project for a stakeholder could be:
● Making money
● Being recognised in their field
● A promotion or career boost
● A quicker turnaround
● Better processes
The key is in recognising how that stakeholder will personally benefit from the project (and that might not be how they think they will benefit), then pointing it out to them. The more personal ‘benefits’ there are, the more likely they are to care about the project.
The Organisation Matters
As a project manager you are used to recognising the bigger picture and creating that vision for your team, and you need to do the same for your stakeholder. Although you might think that the stakeholder understands the bigger picture, it is better not to assume and to explain it in a really quick and easy to understand way.
● How does the project benefit the organisation?
● What problems will it solve?
● What is the ultimate goal of the project?
Stakeholders have to trust you or you won’t gain the most from them. They need to be sure that you won’t be sharing sensitive information, and that you are professional and ethical in your practices. Stakeholders want transparency.
Trusting You Are Capable
Stakeholders will want to know you are capable of delivering. They want to know they are in the best hands, that you have the relevant skills needed to complete the project successfully. They want to know you have planning skills, the ability to manage the budget, manage risk, communicate well and deal with any risks or problems that arise. If you aren’t capable in all the areas necessary, it is important the stakeholder knows they can trust you to source the additional resources you need. If you think your stakeholder has concerns about your capability – address this with them. Explain how you can fill the gaps when it comes to capabilities you don’t have.
Everyone involved in a project wants to fully believe the project manager is wholly committed to the cause. Stakeholders do not have the time or energy to be working with new PM’s throughout the project, they want one capable person who is committed to the project until closure.
Still Unsure What Stakeholders Want?
Consider seeking advice from a mentor or more experience project manager in the same industry. Stakeholders are such an important part of every project, you cannot afford not to have an open, trusting relationship with them and to understand their needs and wants.