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A lot goes into making a project successful. And, one factor that certainly deserves to be in the priority list of a project manager is stakeholder management. It is the high risk and high reward facet of project management which calls for assessing and establishing quality relations with all the stakeholders. This includes positively engaging with individuals, team members, functional groups, or internal and external parties who may be impacted by or have an impact on the outcome of your project.

No man is an island; the adage perfectly relates to the concept of stakeholder management. No project can work in isolation; with scores of members tied to a project development, adopting a well-coordinated approach is the prerequisite for a smoother sail. The primary onus is on the project managers who are required to manage stakeholder expectations diligently, ensuring their aspirations are favorably met. In fact, stakeholder management is one of the key aspects of leadership training programs organized by companies for their managers.

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Investing in careful planning for stakeholder management can bring concrete benefits. A well-executed stakeholder management plan mitigates risks of conflict, improves overall performance and takes you closer to your goals.

Here is a list of steps that form the cornerstone of developing an effective stakeholder management plan.

How to develop strong stakeholder management plan

1) Identify your stakeholder:

Undertake stakeholder analysis to prepare a list of stakeholders that should be involved in the project. You can map out their status and share of interest in the light of your project. Get all your findings documented in a separate worksheet. Include their current role, their expected role and influence on the project and contact details.  The data collected will serve as a baseline for prioritization of stakeholders as well as for shaping communications with them for the project lifecycle. It will serve as record as to why a stakeholder was selected and what their purpose is within the scope of the project.

2) Get to know them better:

Besides working upon the data collected from different sources, you must also meet each stakeholder in person to have a better understanding of their interests, priorities, preferences and concerns. Compare the findings to assess how they make a fit in the realm of the project or organization for which you are running the stakeholder engagement program.

3) Prioritize stakeholders:

The next step towards stakeholder management plan is to classify your stakeholders according to their influence and interest in the project. You can prioritize your stakeholders as per the following:

  • Greater stake and more interest in the project. You must closely engage these people, and make the all efforts to satisfy them.
  • High influence but less interested people. Keep them satisfied but do not go overboard with your communication pushing them to brink of feeling burdened.
  • Low power, highly interested people. Make sure to adequately inform these people, and maintain regular communications. People in this category can often be very helpful in case unexpected issues arise.
  • Less influence less interested: Monitor them and avoid too much of unnecessary communication.

4) Build a sound communication plan for stakeholder:

Communication helps build good relations. Even the top leadership development programs lay stress on mastering this skill. And rightly so, as it helps to grow your influence and win support of the other parties.  Chart out a communication plan to keep your stakeholders updated about the development of the project. A clear cut communications plan must include essential details like frequency of communication, format of communication, participants for each type of communication and more.

Stakeholder Management Bonus Tips:

  • Make sure all information related to the project is presented in a transparent way.
  • Select the most suitable communication channel – email, social media, phone, or in-person group meetings (depending upon the preference of your respective stakeholder).
  • Keep an open and curious attitude and focus on aligning values and interests.
  • Track commitments made to them-ensure project team members coordinate, share information and take follow-up actions.
  • Maintain a record of stakeholder communications that occur over time.

The bottom line is to develop a positive partnership with all stakeholders through meaningful engagement. This will not only earn you their support but also bring value and expertise to your project, thereby leading to on time and on budget project delivery,