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Engaging Stakeholders and Emotions

Stakeholder management is essential to any project success because it is the stakeholders who ultimately determine if the final results of a project are acceptable or not. That also means that there are projects that have completed on time, under budget, and with completed work in scope, and still are considered failures. Oppositely, there are projects that have achieved none of the three requirements, and are still considered successful projects.

The key here is engagement with the stakeholders and their perception and support of the project. The focus of stakeholder management isn't to "manage stakeholders" but instead to manage their engagement in your project. As others have pointed out, you often have no control over key stakeholders, for example: regulatory agencies, customers, and your sponsor... Therefore, you want to focus on understanding their needs and their relationship to the project.

Any project being a new endeavor translates into each stakeholder engagement having an element of change management, and let’s faces it: Change is rarely easily or eagerly embraced. PMI itself has expanded upon stakeholder concepts and separated this topic in order to increase the focus on its importance.

I recently read a curious article about eliminating emotion from stakeholder engagement on ProjectManagement.com, by Patti Gilchrist. There’s a really interesting real world example involving the Duck Dynasty TV show! Not getting emotionally involved is hard when the stakes are high, and that is especially true in the high-pressure situations that are frequent when managing projects and managing stakeholders.

I’m interested from your perspective of a project manager, have you tried eliminating emotions from stakeholder management or maybe you used them towards the purpose of engaging the stakeholders to assure projects success? What have you seen working out there or what have been some spectacular disasters? Regarding the Duck Dynasty, do you think that the network demonstrated effective stakeholder management and if not, what could have been done differently?

Continuously paying attention to your stakeholders can be the difference in having a project that goes relatively smoothly and one that is a free-for-all melee. We should make sure to periodically go through the identify, plan, manage, and control processes with our project stakeholders to make sure we as project managers, and the project itself is providing the most value. Even the “For Dummies” series recognizes this.

What are your thoughts?

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