Build Relationships Among Stakeholders


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Stakeholder management involves everything necessary to control relationships with all the individuals a program has an impact on or affects to ensure the achievement of the program’s objectives. One of the primary concerns for any program manager should be stakeholder management, as it is an ongoing process that is never completed.

Our Guide to Stakeholder Management walks you through this critical process:

Part 1 of 6: Identifying Stakeholders
Part 2 of 6: Assess the Stakeholders’ Power
Part 3 of 6: Build Stakeholder Relationships
Part 4 of 6: Build Relationships Among Stakeholders
Part 5 of 6: Communication Strategies for Stakeholders
Part 6 of 6: Lead the Stakeholders

Part 4 of 6: Build Relationships Among Stakeholders

Program managers benefit when the relationships among the stakeholders are strong. Strong relationships minimize political grandstanding and usually facilitate compromises and/or solutions that are best for the organization and are not always in a specific stakeholder’s interest. Thus, in addition to creating strong relationships between the program management team and the stakeholders, the program manager should foster positive relationships among stakeholders. The first step in this process is to always be positive and speak positively about all stakeholders. Don’t get baited or caught in the trap of talking negatively about a particular stakeholder whether that party deserves it or not.

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Whenever the stakeholders are together, take some time to introduce them formally and informally. Share some positive or unique attribute about each stakeholder. If you have done your homework, developing a relationship with each stakeholder in this manner should not be difficult. You can also start a meeting with an appropriate ice-breaking activity. Appropriate means that it fits the group of stakeholders. For example, do they all know one another? Have they worked together for years? Is someone new to the group? When you have one or a few stakeholders new to an existing group, take the time to make personal introductions of the new stakeholders. You can also send existing members a note about a new stakeholder’s background and interests he or she may have in common with others in the group and encourage the group members to make the new stakeholder feel welcome.

Start early developing positive relationships among stakeholders, because pressure tends to increase with program longevity and as project delivery dates approach. In scheduling meetings with stakeholders, allocate additional time for breaks or schedule the meeting over lunch or breakfast to create a relaxed atmosphere that fosters relationship development.

Relationship building does not overcome incompetence. Your credibility as a program manager and your project managers’ credibility are necessary elements for strong relationships with project stakeholders. Expect stakeholders to check up on you and your project managers, especially if the relationships are new and/or the service or deliverable the program provides is critical. Anticipate stakeholders’ needs and questions. Contact them quickly in person or by phone to give them critical information they should know.

A NASA program manager once told me that he learned not to wait on the “system” to relay important information to important stakeholders. He further stated that when the information did get to a stakeholder in a timely manner, it often was biased, was out of context, or didn’t tell the complete story. Therefore, after important meetings he would personally call all the major stakeholders who weren’t present to advise them of the discussion and the outcome. This also gave him an opportunity to field questions and listen to concerns. Over time this built strong relationships of trust.

Stakeholder management involves building effective relationships and constant communication to keep programs on track and successful. WorkOtter helps you keep stakeholders informed of important project status and build collaboration between those involved in the program. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can help you build your stakeholder relationships.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.