The kick-off of your project went well, the scope of the project has been clarified and the tasks distributed. You are at work with your team. Yes, there are a few deviations, but nothing serious. They think the project is going well. But then, after a short time, problems become noticeable that seem to come almost out of nowhere.
- Important information is missing
- Some team members seem unengaged
- The support from clients and/or superiors is not quite as promised.
- Other departments do not cooperate as agreed
- Suddenly the wind turns and blows in your face
- Rumors circulate and you hear negative gossip
However, the factual level and the status of task completion in the project is only half the battle. At least as important is the opinion of those around you. In practice, there are a myriad of projects that actually went well and then get the reputation of a bad project. There was some negative influence at work. How could that happen?
Someone forgot the project environment. Stakeholders need to be cared for and included, otherwise you will hand yourself over to the "corridor radio". This has always been the case, but has become much stronger and more significant in recent decades. Do you remember software implementations or highway constructions from 30 or 40 years ago? That would no longer be conceivable today. Everyone has an opinion and expresses it. Not only on a social level, also in your company. The only thing that saves you is good, forward-looking and adapted communication with and with the right stakeholders. Regardless of whether they are individuals or organizational un
Who are your stakeholders?
We need clarity about the various stakeholders, their interests and their influence. This is the basis for your control, because the environment can also be influenced.
It starts with a change of perspective: We turn our attention away from the tasks and individual tasks that the project has to fulfill. Because that's what we've been working on, that's planned. We now look at the environment of the project: What is going on all around? In which network of relationships of interests and influences do we stand? Your specific environment of interests and influences ultimately decides whether your project was successful. In any case, much stronger than the pure quality of task fulfillment. But that's not all. Especially with complex projects, you need all the support you can get to achieve your goals - and no headwind.
The starting point and basis for controlling communication is a careful stakeholder analysis. And stakeholders can be many. What is a stakeholder? Roughly speaking, it is the answer to the question "Who is interested in your project?
- Who all is involved? W
- ho is affected? Just as important, who thinks they're affected?
- Who else is there with influence: who is a spectator? Who is behind a curtain? Who wins or loses when you are successful?
Steps of stakeholder analysis
I recommend the following steps for the basics, for the stakeholder analysis:
Start with a wild brainstorm: collect the names of people and functions. who might be interested. Depending on the project assignment, you also have to look outside of your own organization, competitors, suppliers, customers, authorities, the press, ...
When you're done with this list, ask yourself, "Who else is there?" There may be a few people behind the curtain. Find a sparring partner for this. If you do this alone, you're sure to forget someone. Remember, you can forget stakeholders - but rest assured, they will not forget you.
Now we analyze each individual stakeholder in detail and present the web of interests graphically. This works great on a pin board, but you can also use other media, e.g. a piece of paper or PowerPoint.
- How big is their influence on the success of the project? Write the name on a circular piece of paper - the bigger the impact, the bigger the disc. If you don't have access to facilitation materials, circles in PowerPoint or coins of different sizes will do.
- How intense is your current contact with the project? Draw your project in the center of the paper and group each stakeholder around that center. The more intensive the contact, the closer you move the stakeholder to the center of the paper.
- Now we still need the attitude of the stakeholders to the project: What is the attitude towards the project? Four categories are usually sufficient here: positive, negative, neutral, ambivalent.
You now see the whole picture of interests, influences and assessments. And of course you can go even deeper here. Before moving on to the conclusions for project communication, let's take a look at the stakeholder analysis itself. A few hints from my side:
- At the beginning of the project you usually don't have a lot of reliable information, you have to rely on assumptions or "hearsay". Check your assumptions step by step!
- Do this stakeholder analysis regularly in the project, e.g. before important phases. Because the environment changes, it is dynamic. Perhaps some stakeholders are less important, while others are new.
- Do not do the stakeholder analysis alone! At least the core team or other confidants should be there. Alternatively get the external perspective of a consultant on board.
Consequences for project communication
The stakeholder analysis is the basis for stakeholder management and the design of your project communication.
- Which parts of the picture fits well and should be kept?
- What is not ideal but bearable?
- Where does contact need to be intensified?
- Where something decreased?
- Who do you need to communicate with and how?
Think about how the situation should be. You may now immediately think of important measures. And now we can develop much more precisely which topics we "play" on each individual stakeholder. This analysis also gives us advice on how you should control the communication. Here, too, I would like to give you a few tips to help you along the way:
- Not everything is achievable, set realistic goals! You won't be able to just "turn" someone with a clearly negative attitude towards your project. It is enough if this person does not become active. Inspiring the neutral and ambivalent is usually worth more. And don't forget your allies to keep you positive.
- The communication must be target group oriented. Not only in the content, but also with the means of communication. The rule of thumb here is: The more influential a stakeholder is, the more individual the medium has to be. No mass emails for the influential, here one-on-one meetings, walks or lunch are the right forms.
- And last but not least something that often makes my heart bleed: I know you are a project manager because you want to advance something, implement something and not because you love documentation. But your reports are excellent tools for positioning the project and a few core statements. Declutter your reports and include one to three key messages. This is part of communicating with your stakeholders.
As already mentioned, you can go much more in-depth with all of this, which will also be necessary for complex projects. Here I am very happy to be at your disposal as your sparring partner.