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Written by Ganesh Kumar, PgMP, PMP

Have you led or been part of a project or program with disengaged stakeholders or sponsors? Did your project suffer from lack of timely decision making or late scope creep? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. Here I will share some steps you can take to improve stakeholder engagement.

It’s important to build a trusting relationship with your key stakeholders and stay connected throughout your project. Engaged stakeholders help motivate individuals through their active participation and timely resolution, which enables the project to stay on track.

Typically, project managers build trust and engage with key stakeholders at the start of a project; but as the project gets underway and team size grows, we lose sight of continuing those relationships. This generally leads to communication breakdowns, a gap in expectations, delayed decision making and sometimes even misalignment of project goals against organizational strategic objectives.

Here are five steps to follow:

1. Identify the key stakeholders.In any project or program, the project manager leading the initiative identifies all the impacted stakeholders to engage in planning, status reporting or managing dependencies. But my focus here is on how you engage your key stakeholders. Who are the key stakeholders? It depends on factors like the type of project, organization structure, industry, and internal and external dependencies.

From a project engagement perspective, key stakeholders are individuals who have decision-making power, and influence or have vested interest on the outcome of the project. They could be aligned within your project organization structure (like a project sponsor or business sponsor) or be an extended stakeholder (like external customers or funding partners).

Identifying these key stakeholders early in the project helps the PM and the team establish trusting relationships and understand their expectations of project deliverables, their role and the ongoing level of engagement.

2. Analyze the individual stakeholders identified in the prior step and decide on the level of engagement and time you need to invest in building the relationship. The information needed for analysis could be obtained from historical information, brainstorming sessions with the team, focus groups and interviews. Each key stakeholder is analyzed to get clarity on their attitude toward the initiative, degree of support, ability to influence and


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Northeast Ohio Chapter of PMI
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