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 3 of 6: Build Stakeholder Relationships
Stakeholder relationship building is one of the most important aspects of program management. Relationship building never ends; relationships can always be strengthened. Unfortunately, relationship building is something that novice or technically focused program managers often overlook. They are so focused on the tangible deliverables of the project that they discount the importance of relationship building.
Strong stakeholder relationships begin by establishing trust and then continually building on that trust. Ultimately you want to treat the stakeholder the way he or she wants to be treated. This means taking time to ﬁnd out about the stakeholder. The more you know about a stakeholder, the easier it will be to engage him or her in positive conversations about the program.
The most eﬀective sales personnel know their customers best. It usually pays dividends to invest time learning the personal and professional history of stakeholders. Discreetly gathering information on stakeholder preferences may seem out of the box, but most major service providers of all types and levels make it a practice to collect information on their best customers. Using this information makes it easy to establish strong rapport with stakeholders. It also makes it easier to handle situations that arise when new project managers come on board, because you can quickly brief the new managers about the stakeholders and identify areas of common interest and common ground.
Building rapport like this is vital because you want to have trust ﬁrmly established before you have the intense pressures of program dilemmas and decisions to work through.
Additionally, you need to keep your stakeholders’ “keepers” and support personnel happy. Therefore, foster and develop relationships with the secretary and the staﬀ of high-level stakeholders. It does not take a rocket scientist to ﬁgure out that if a high-level stakeholder’s secretary likes you, you are more likely to have access to that high-level stakeholder.
You should also foster a relationship between your stakeholders and the person who backs you up or acts on your behalf when you are unavailable. For a variety of reasons you may be unavailable to personally respond to every stakeholder request, and you should have someone at the ready in whom stakeholders have conﬁdence.
Remote stakeholder relationships have many barriers to building a strong relationship of trust. Such relationships often include communication barriers, culture barriers, and time diﬀerences as well as the natural impediments that exist when human beings cannot communicate face to face. If the stakeholder relationship is important, it pays to make arrangements to travel and meet face to face.
Barring face-to-face communication opportunities, communication by telephone is very important. Just as there is no magic bullet for remote relationship building, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. Expect more risk with remote stakeholders, especially if a lack of travel funds or busy schedules prevent face-to-face relationship building because the relationships will not be as strong and communication (especially informal) will be more challenging. I know one global company that outsources some project management work to India, but only after the remote project managers have spent six weeks in the United States getting to know project managers and team members.
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.