Please check out my post over on the OCTAVEdigitalworks blog on the selection of collaboration tools for your team.
Thanks to Andy Burns for triggering this idea for a post. At a PMI chapter meeting recently, Andy was talking about being aware of the investment a stakeholder had in an estimate that was clearly far, far below what was necessary for the expected scope. This made me think a bit more about the human/communication side of project leadership. I have another post in the works on communication, but I’m more excited about this topic…it will just have to wait (as will you).
First, we are thinking in the context of stakeholders. The PMBOK Guide, 4th Edition, defines a stakeholder as follows: Stakeholders are persons or organizations (e.g., customers, sponsors, the performing organization, or the public), who are actively involved in the project or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project. This is a fine technical definition, but I like to think about it a little more broadly. If somebody can make my day a really good one, or a really bad one, in the context of a project I’m leading, then they are a stakeholder. I need to care about them, even if they don’t show up in a box in a project charter document.
By definition, all stakeholders have some investment in a project. This investment could be real capital, intellectual capital, or even pride/reputation (they fought hard for it, so it’s gonna happen!). In Andy’s example, a key stakeholder had been instrumental in providing the original estimate. They were invested in the project budget coming in at or near the number they had put forward. Simply raising the issue with them that the project was going to be over-budget from the get-go would likely get an interesting response. Not knowing of this stakeholder’s investment could lead to some interesting conversations, and real issues in making progress in the ultimate resolution.
Being a project leader means recognizing these investments, and implicitly managing them.
Understanding stakeholder investment will usually impact your effort when something deviates from plan. Investment will drive expectations, which will ultimately drive stakeholder behavior. The nature of their investment will determine how they react when you communicate with them, especially if it is escalation of an issue. Not only will you avoid ‘uncomfortable’ conversations, you will also likely see improvements in the velocity of decision-making from those individuals.
- In your stakeholder analysis, be sure to identify all stakeholders, and what their investment is
- Make sure your communication plan effectively addresses stakeholder investment
- At escalation points, use your knowledge of investments to effectively communicate, accounting for the stakeholders’ investment, and how that is impacted by what you are communicating
I had a bit of an epiphany last month. It came in two parts.
First, a family member recounted to me a customer service horror story of trying to get a new “item” to my kids for Christmas. All she wanted to do was pay for the item, and have me pick it up at my local store. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? She apparently spent hours on the phone with customer service. She received different stories from different people, and was ultimately directed toward her local store. “Hey, that’s easy” was the response, and it was handled rather quickly from there. I picked up the item, and on the way home, it hit me that I was almost insensitive to the ridiculousness of the story. Instead of thinking “wow, I can’t believe they let you down like that”, I simply thought “another typical service experience from Best Buy, or any other big box retailer” Is this happening to everybody? Are we beginning to lower our standards due to the seemingly overwhelming lack of good service? Are we now “wowed” when we simply get the kind of service we used to get from Joe’s shoes in downtown America?
Not long after, I was reviewing a discussion I had with a prospective client. I realized that my energy level was highest when we were discussing how we would deliver fabulous service. I have always been service-oriented (thanks, Mom), so it really isn’t that much of a surprise. However, I think I’m realizing that it really plays more importance in my life than I initially thought. So, what to do with that? Relating this to my StrengthsFinder 2.0 results, it fits! (Ideation, Self-Assurance, Relator, Restorative, Individualization)
I’ll expand on this in a later post…need to spend some more thinking time on this one!