Not shareholders – they are the ones who own shares in the company. Stakeholders are those groups of people who have a keen interest in the initiative or process that you are working on. It could be because your success or your failure will impact their groups or processes in their groups. It could also be because your initiative could generate risks which they would like to keep an eye on. For some reason, these people or groups care more than the average person or employee about the initiative that you are working on.
It is therefore smart to understand who they are and secondly to understand why they care so much about this initiative. And as a result of what you learn, you can plan to keep them happy and informed. If you don’t, you risk them blocking or stalling progress on your initiative, or (if in executive levels) they may put another person in place to supervise you to make sure their interests are well-managed and protected.
For your success as a project manager of an initiative – find out who the stakeholders are, find out what they need and make sure you meet their needs!
Find out who they are
Which groups have processes that overlap or connect to processes you are managing? Who are the receivers or end-users of what you are creating? Answers to these questions could help you start your list of stakeholders.
- Start outside your organizations – are there any authorities, special interest groups, communities, clients, suppliers who are somehow connected to the product or service that you are providing? They may be stakeholders!
- Look at the high-level organization chart of your company. Do any of the groups you see contribute to, receive outcomes, or participate in key processes you are managing? If so, add them to your stakeholder list.
- Look for individuals at management levels who may need to give others updates on your project or processes you manage. They may also be stakeholders.
What do they care about?
Once you have your list of stakeholders with their titles and even down to name level. It is time to validate their interest in your project or process.
What they need:
Why would they care about the outcomes of your process or the way you run the project? Do they need information for their role or group? Or do they use the outcomes from your project somehow?
What they want to avoid:
What outcomes or messages would each of the identified stakeholders want to avoid? Think of anything that would cause them to have to do extra work or have to explain unsatisfactory results.
Make a plan
Use the template below to document a plan that you follow throughout the year to ensure each of your stakeholder groups receive required data, updates or opportunities to provide input or suggestions to your project on a regular basis.
Templates to download
Check-in on a regular basis with your stakeholders whether it is a quarterly survey or a personal call from you. Make sure that you have not missed anything they need to know or be informed about and make sure that they are not dealing with rising frustration due to a lack of updates or output from your team!
Learning how to manage the expectations of stakeholders on an initiative is a great way to learn new skills which will become important as you get promoted to take on more responsibilities. People at higher levels in any organization succeed by keeping aligned with a lot of different personalities and groups and they do this by understanding the needs and concerns of these other parties and then managing that (in a similar way as managing stakeholder expectations) on an ongoing basis.