A Project in any industry effects several stakeholders such as Customers, Vendors, Team Members, Project Manager, Senior Management, Banks/Financial Institutions, Government and Regulatory bodies. These stakeholders have power, influence, and authority; and can effect positively or negatively the project outcome. Dealing and managing stakeholder expectations and engaging project stakeholders requires different skill set. There is a need to use different techniques, different strategies, different tactics and negotiate with project stakeholders. This specific conference insight describes the insights from a conference held in June 2021 on Communication and Negotiation.
Characteristics of Stakeholders: Some of the stakeholders have enthusiasm towards the project. Some stakeholders are willing to provide funding for the project. They have certain expectations from the project. Some may be analytic in nature; some may be qualitative in nature. Some may look at figures; some may look at quality. They want to engage in some capacity or other with the project. They seek required information timely on regular basis. They can be individuals or organizations.
How Project Manager Should Deal with Stakeholders?: The project manager instead of managing the stakeholders, he should manage the expectations of the stakeholders. Focus should be on the expectations and engagement but not on the people. In dealing with stakeholders, project manager should be optimistic and positive. He should document the influence level, personality type and behavioral style of the stakeholders. The project manager should seek information from stakeholders using open ended, closed ended, and reflective type of questions.
Team Members as Stakeholders: Project manager while managing his team, he should first understand at what stage of development the team is currently in. For example, in forming stage of team development, he should be guiding the team; in storming stage of team development, he should provide the needed information and facts; in norming stage of team development, he should help in devising guidelines/procedures; in performing stage, he should give autonomy to team in order for self-direction and collective decision making of the team. To reach the peak levels of performance, project manager should support, encourage team and resolve conflicts in team. Project manager also should know what motivates team members of the project, individually. Particularly he should encourage open communication and transparency in team. Basically, the day-to-day progress of tasks motives the team members. Sometimes, some members support the leader; instead of leading the team in their own way. This is because, for them, more than enjoying power and authority, organizational commitment and the carrying out the task in picture are more important and their personal interests.
Team Development Stages Vs. Project Manager Duty:
Forming Stage (Guide the Team) ==> Storming Stage (Provide Facts and Information) ==> Norming Stage (Devise Guidelines/Procedures) ==> Performing Stage (Give Autonomy/Self-Direction to Team)
Senior Management as Stakeholders: As stakeholders of project, senior management should set specific, measurable, and achievable goal to project team. While communicating project goal/objective, the communication should be unambiguous. One should understand the power of positive thinking. The project goal and objective should be clear. There should be limited Scope for the project.
Communicating and Negotiating with Stakeholders: Leading people requires communication. Project manager while managing communication channels, occasionally, he may need to resolve conflicts among stakeholders. While negotiating with stakeholders, instead of focusing on positions, focus on interests of different stakeholders. In negotiations, sometimes, silence is the best tool. Soft negotiation is also one of the tactics which will enable project manager to build relationships. For negotiation, both internal facts gathering and external facts gathering are required. Project manager should understand the priorities of the organization. In negotiation, it is better to find common interests of the parties involved. It is best practice to focus on people’s interests. It is best practice to focus on Problem rather than on the people in picture. Project manager should think about mutual benefits and create win-win situation. Also, one should use objective and analytical criteria in negotiations. One should be ready to learn from negotiations.
Thus, project manager while communicating, negotiating and dealing with stakeholders has to use different strategies, techniques and tactics.
Dr.Goparaju Purna Sudhakar, PhD, PMP
Reference: Lively, E. (2021), “Communication and Negotiation Skills for Project Managers”, International Institute for Learning, Inc, June, 09, 2021.