One of the most common challenges that an enterprise project manager can expect to face is a lack of stakeholder engagement. Sooner or later, every project manager faces situations in which customers, executive sponsors, team members or other stakeholders seem to drift away from a project.
Sometimes the problem is that other projects are pulling stakeholders’ attention away, and in other cases the issue is rooted in a lack of communication. In any event, it’s the project manager’s responsibility to help stakeholders regain their focus on the project and bring it to a successful conclusion.
The strategies listed below will help you build a strong foundation for stakeholder engagement, and can also help you get stakeholders back in line when they begin to wander.
Identify Your Stakeholders Correctly
It goes without saying that you can only hope to keep your stakeholders engaged if you’ve involved the right people from the start. While your project is in its initiation phase, be sure that you are looping in all of the people who will need to do the work, as well as the people who will need to provide guidance and sign off on the final deliverables. If you try to involve additional people who don’t truly need to be part of the project, you’ll waste time and energy trying to keep them on board. Conversely, if you leave out necessary people, your remaining stakeholders may have trouble making decisions or staying motivated.
Set Reasonable Expectations
As you kick off your project, provide a clear description of the commitment you’re looking for from each stakeholder. This should include not only stakeholder roles and responsibilities, but also information on the timing and frequency of meetings, any travel that may be expected and the way in which project information will be shared throughout the life of the project.
Break Down Silos
Just as civic leaders create community engagement by bringing together citizens who might not otherwise interact with each other, project managers can build stakeholder engagement by fostering communication and collaboration between departments and teams that may not be used to sharing information. Collaborative project management software can deliver tremendous benefits in this regard. Clarizen, for example, offers a variety of tools and services to help even the most widely-dispersed project teams connect with each other and share information in real time.
Maintain Communication Throughout the Project
Some project managers do a great job of passing along requirements, role definitions and expectations in the early phases of a project, but then fall strangely silent as the project continues. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your stakeholders will continue to move forward on their own. Maintain a consistent schedule of status meetings, while considering the needs of each group of stakeholders. Executive sponsors may only need an update once a month, for example, while other team members may need a touch-base meeting every week or even every day.