“You know, I like your presentation but you forgot to introduce myself.” – Anonymous Project Stakeholder
These were the first words Mary Carol heard after visiting one of her new project stakeholders. You can be sure she was right. Mary Carol didn’t say “I’m Mary Carol” when she started her presentation. She simply stood up and began her presentation. That was not the only lesson she learned from her new stakeholder.
This stakeholder led a team that played a small part in the project. Their small but significant role was important. It wasn’t the largest, and it didn’t require the most work. However, it was work that allowed users of one system to provide information to users of the other. Mary Carol understood that it was crucial to follow up with the stakeholder.
She was conducting a follow up session to learn more about Mary Carol and to understand her expectations for the project. Mary Carol wanted to find out if she was positive about the project. Did she feel neutral about the project or not? Was she a resister of the project? This was the reason she did the follow-up with her and many others.
Mary Carol should also be aware of another thing she said during the meeting. She said, “You’re welcome to schedule more events like this one.” They are so great for morale.” Mary Carol had just returned from a meeting where one of the finance managers had said, “I hope that you don’t schedule events like this on a regular basis because it’s too expensive.”
Mary Carol had previously met with an operations manager before she was assigned to the finance department. The Operations Manager said that large meetings like this were not a good idea. It’s a waste to have so many people in one place. They get too excited from all the celebrations and then they don’t produce.
What did Mary Carol know? One manager wanted team building events to improve morale. Another manager was okay with team building, but not big enough to have them themed and catered. And yet another manager was against large groups of people being in the same meeting. What was she to do then? Mary Carol had to meet all the diverse stakeholder expectations. She could probably come up with creative solutions that would meet the needs of each manager. She knew it was impossible to meet all their needs 100% of time.
She could only manage their expectations. She wasn’t going to guarantee that there would always be big parties in team building. She wasn’t going to guarantee that no money would be spent on team building. She also didn’t promise that large groups of people would not be met.
It is crucial to manage stakeholder expectations. Clear communication is key. It is best to communicate with stakeholders when you are unable to meet their specific requests. Mary Carol would create a plan to build teamwork that took into account the opinions of each stakeholder. She would then share the plan with her stakeholders, highlighting when an event would need a large budget or when the entire project team would attend. This would ensure that her stakeholders were informed, wouldn’t be surprised, and could participate in the planning. Mary Carol had learned from previous experience that even if a stakeholder didn’t like a particular approach, they would be less upset if they were given the chance to express their opinion and to think about it.