PMO managing project stakeholders

How a PMO can help manage stakeholders

The last post, PMO Stakeholder Analysis, covered why stakeholder analysis was important to the health of a PMO and, the approach to conducting the analysis.  This post will provide some ideas on how to use the output of the analysis to successfully manage your stakeholders.

Quick recap

Stakeholder analysis is used to identify stakeholders and assess the level of power and influence stakeholders have in respect of the PMO, project, etc.  This includes guaging if they are an advocate (support), neutral or a blocker (not supportive.

A plan can then be constructed to manage stakeholders i.e. moving blockers to advocate.

Stakeholder management ideas

Reinforce the advocates

While you may have some ‘blocker’s’, it is worthwhile spending time reinforcing the relationships with high influence, high power advocates.  The reasons being:

  •  You want to ensure that they stay fully aligned to the PMO.  This is more likely if they have a clear understanding of objectives, direction and issues.
  • Their position usually means they can provide a high level or support and protection.
  • They will be more prepared to support the PMO / project in difficult conversations.
  • They will be able to help with other stakeholders who are ‘blocker’s’.

It is a good idea to set up regular sessions to update the key advocates so they are fully aware of the current status.  It also reduces the risk that they are caught “off guard” in a meeting with their peers.  Leaving a senior stakeholder exposed is a very quick way to lose their support!

Review the ‘neutrals’

Take time to review the stakeholders assessed as ‘neutral’.  Are there any that have high power, high influence it would be beneficial to make the effort to move them to being ‘advocates’?

It is easier to move a stakeholder from ‘neutral’ to ‘advocate’ than ‘blocker’ to ‘advocate’.  It also presents an easier path to get more stakeholders into the ‘advocate’ camp that can help reduce the impact of remaining ‘blocker’s’.

Converting a stakeholder from ‘neutral’ can be tricky.  They are usually marked as ‘neutral’ as they have no opinion or interest either way.  Therefore, they don’t really care in the outcome as it provides them with no direct benefit to their own objectives and agenda.

So key to converting them to ‘advocate’ is showing them “what is in it for them”.  If you can build a case why the PMO or project will help them, more chance they will move from ‘neutral’.    Remember, you must position the benefit relevant to their own goals so it is worth investing time preparing material specific to them (not just your existing benefit slides).

However, it is quite possible there really is no benefit directly to them.  This is where you call on the assistance of your advocates to use their relationship to gain the required support.

Manage the ‘blocker’s’

do not block signManaging ‘blocker’s’ can take a lot of valuable time and effort.  Therefore, make sure that you really need to invest the time.  Focus on the ‘blocker’s’ who are absolutely required to allow the PMO or project to proceed, this includes those who have the power to stop them.

When you have identified the stakeholders who need to be actively managed, spend time understanding why they have been assessed as ‘blocker’s’ and understand:

  • Is the reason for marking as a blocker valid?
  • Are they demonstrating behaviours that impact the PMO or project?
  • What are the reasons for them ‘blocking’? i.e. is what the PMO is doing directly opposing their own objectives?
  • Can they be moved to being an ‘advocate’?  Some stakeholders will never move even with a well prepared case.

When you have a good understanding, devise a strategy of how the concerns can be addressed.  Then, spend some time with your sponsor to discus the findings and options.  They will be able to provide insight and direction.

There maybe some stakeholders who will never move position.  Here the focus should be on how to minimise the impact – usually achieved by having a large number of high power, high influence ‘advocates’.

Agree with your sponsor the strategy.  This may involve using the support of other advocates to help move the challenging ‘blocker(s)’.

Execute the strategy.

To close…

  • Stakeholder management is an ongoing task, make sure you don’t treat it as a one=off event.
  • Investing time can really make a big difference to the success of your PMO or project.
  • Some stakeholders will never move position, work out how you can minimise the impact.

Remember the stakeholder analysis templates used in post 90 are available as a free download.  Simply visit the post and near the bottom click on the links to download both of the templates.