Stakeholder Management is the Most Important Management

In Project Management, there are a staggering amount of different “managements” to learn about. Cost, Schedule, Risk, Quality, Change, Communications, etc. But by far, the most important is Stakeholder Management. Yes, it’s important to manage project costs and deliver on time with expected quality, but why is all that important? …. Because that’s what the stakeholders want. That’s what they are paying you for, and giving them what they want (what they really want) is your most important job.

At the beginning of a baselined waterfall project, all stakeholders are aligned. Costs and schedule are agreed to, resources are allocated, and plans are in place to accomplish all scope within the agreed constraints. Project Managers aren’t put in charge to ride a good plan into the sunset, they are there to keep everyone aligned through excellent stakeholder management (and integrated change control, of course).

A former boss of mine loved to say, “A Project Manager takes pride in completing a project to the original baseline.” While I agree this is something to be proud of, it is almost never the case, even for the best PM’s. The vast majority of (well-run) projects go through many documented changes before completion. Changes are expected. As you and the stakeholders learn more about the project, changes are implemented to make sure the project delivers its intended benefit.

Most “unhappy customer” problems arise when changes are made without proper documentation and stakeholder buy-in. No matter what happens, no matter how well intentioned you think you are being, do not make changes without stakeholder buy-in. Your number one job is making sure that the stakeholders desires are managed to the level you can execute with the project. No matter what’s happening on the project (costs going up, schedule extending, scope not achievable without added risk, etc) if the stakeholders are aligned and expectations are managed, the project will be considered a success.

Every management is stakeholder management. Do it well, and you’ll rarely go wrong in project management or in life.

This is day 4 of 30 in my challenge to write every day for 30 days

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