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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Using Time to manage to Risks associated with Stakeholders

Often, in my project management experience, I see that people miss engaging with the required stakeholders proactively to deal with risks. When stakeholders have not engaged appropriately, then, risks go uncontrolled making it impossible to mitigate them. Based on my experience, I see three types of stakeholders that need a good project manager must identify to proactively manage.


  1. Too much engaged to the extent that they suck up all the oxygen in the team. They knowingly or unknowingly give the indication to the team that their ways are the common-sense way and everything else is almost wrong. 
  2. Missing in Action stakeholders are too busy never to be around but when decisions are taken without them they appear immediately. They are the constant speed breakers breeding distrust and sometimes fear.
  3. Definitely ambiguous stakeholders who are in between these two above extremes but can never figure out what they want changing the priorities repeatedly making it difficult for the team to progress or slowdown. 
All these three types of stakeholders bring several types of risks - business, technical, and people among the many risks. The most important thing is to "Taking  Initiative Managing Expectations" that I call TIME management. While principles like start list, wish list and stop list exist that have been further enhanced by MoSCoW principles like (Must, Should, Could, and Won't) to prioritize requests, tasks, features, etc., TIME management takes into account a few simple things that anyone can do manage the stakeholders. These are asking a few questions like the following to set the expectations with the stakeholders.

  1. Is this required? Particularly when #1 and #3 types of stakeholders are involved, determining the customer or business value of any proposed technique would take these discussions far along in avoiding tangential discussions and focusing on value-added work. Including timeboxing principles such as a definite amount of time for every actionable outcome from every agenda item can further keep the focus and remove other discussions to the parking lot.
  2. Can you help me solve this, please? This approach can be used in all the three types of stakeholders. By setting one-on-one discussions with the stakeholder to mention how their values are important but how their continued presence is eliminating any creativity from the team due to their inclination to agree with the stakeholder's views or long absences taking any timely decision making away from the team can take the stakeholder management very productive. 
  3. What's the ROI? Particularly in the stakeholder #3 situation, refocusing on the efforts versus cost/benefits can bring a distinct focus back to the project's objectives. Refocusing on the opportunity costs due to the cost of the meeting in discussing features that may not be a value add unless the stakeholder can unambiguously quantify will require the stakeholder to think of the Pareto principle and focus on "DONE"!
In the end, engaging stakeholders is an art that any project manager must spent time. Regardless of how well one is, without a kaizen attitude towards continuous improvement, such arts of engaging stakeholders depreciate exponentially with time. So, use TIME to manage risks associated with stakeholder engagement. 

What other thoughts do you have in engaging stakeholders productively? Please share/comment. 

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