A Guide to Successful PMO Stakeholder Management

“Stakeholder Management” is one of the 22 service domains delineated by AIPMO. While other institutes may refer to this domain by different names, such as “stakeholder engagement” or simply “stakeholders,” it’s appropriately termed a “domain.”

Thus, appending the term “management” to “Stakeholder” not only ensures consistency in naming domains in general but also aligns with AIPMO’s categorization of service domains.

Stakeholder management plays a crucial role in the success of any initiative, whether it’s a project, program, portfolio, or another endeavor. It involves the application of specific principles, methodologies, and techniques to establish, nurture, and fortify beneficial relationships with stakeholders. Given that stakeholders, whether individual persons or groups, exert significant influence over an initiative’s outcomes, their effective management becomes an indispensable component of ensuring a project’s success.

Unengaged sponsor sinks the ship
Angela Wagner

The Principles of Stakeholder Management

Managing stakeholders, irrespective of whether they are internal, client, partner, or a supplier, is one of the most challenging activities associated with a project. Every professional involved in stakeholder management will know of the conflicting agendas, views, and perspectives involved in every discussion and decision taken. Therefore, having a set of guiding principles especially for stakeholder management will help to guide stakeholders in how they understand, communicate, and interact with others.

The following principles have been identified and those that provide the greatest impact in this domain. Stakeholder management principles are from AIPMO’s PMO Services and Capabilities book (2022).

  • Big Picture: Grasping the holistic context of organizational endeavors empowers a comprehensive perspective on stakeholder involvement.
  • Scenario Thinking: In a landscape marked by numerous simultaneous endeavors, scenario thinking guides the selection of optimal strategies.
  • Challenge: To ensure alignment among interconnected endeavors, the principle of challenge is vital in selecting the most advantageous course.
  • Exemplar: Setting a credible example builds trust and reinforces the effectiveness of stakeholder recommendations.
  • Transparency: Clear communication and openness form the bedrock of strong stakeholder relationships.
  • Clarity: Precise thinking and solutions prevent ambiguity in stakeholder interactions.
  • Simplicity: Complexity is minimized wherever possible to streamline effective stakeholder engagement.

Why These Principles?

Understanding the overarching landscape is crucial as stakeholders extend across diverse initiatives. In a dynamic landscape of various scenarios, the ability to challenge and select optimal paths maintains alignment. The interconnected nature of initiatives necessitates the challenge of choosing the most cohesive strategy. Leading by example establishes credibility, fostering trust in stakeholder recommendations. Strong stakeholder relationships are underpinned by clear communication and transparency. Precise thinking and solutions prevent ambiguity in stakeholder interactions, while simplifying complexity enhances effective communication and engagement.

A 360-degree view of stakeholders: past to present with a view to the future (from: AIPMO’s PMO Services and Capabilities book, 2022)

Referring to the above figure, people who are in the organization over a longer period of time such as a PMO versus a consultant are more likely to have a 360-degree view of project stakeholders and therefore be forewarned of potential team or stakeholder issues.

Tips and Tricks for Successful Stakeholder Management

Successful stakeholder management is indeed multifaceted, and it often requires a blend of both art and science.

Here’s a more expanded list of tips and tricks for effective stakeholder management:

  • People-Centric Approach: Stakeholder management isn’t just about processes and tools—it’s about people. Focus on shared values, culture, and building genuine relationships to foster trust and mutual respect.
  • Organizational Principles: Every organization has its ethos and values. Ensure that your stakeholder management aligns with and upholds these principles, especially if you’re within a Project Management Office (PMO) context.
  • Common Values: Identify shared values among stakeholders. These can act as a foundation for collaboration and mutual understanding.
  • Engage Customer Teams: Stakeholder management shouldn’t be a one-team effort. Engage with customer teams and train them to ensure a comprehensive approach.
  • GDPR and Data Protection: Always be cautious about personal data. Ensure that stakeholder data is managed with privacy considerations, particularly within contexts governed by GDPR or other data protection regulations.
  • Strive for Win-Win Outcomes: Look for solutions that benefit all stakeholder groups. This creates a harmonious environment and reduces potential conflicts.
  • Balance Personal and Professional Goals: Understand the personal and professional aspirations of stakeholders. Tailoring your approach to meet both these aspirations can create a more cooperative environment.
  • Regular Communication: Keeping stakeholders informed reduces surprises and builds trust. Establish a regular cadence of communication tailored to each stakeholder’s preference.
  • Feedback Loop: Create a mechanism for stakeholders to provide feedback. This helps in continuous improvement and demonstrates that you value their input.
  • Flexibility: Every stakeholder is unique, with different needs and perspectives. Be flexible in your approach, adapting your strategies and tactics as needed.
  • Prioritize Stakeholders: Not all stakeholders have the same influence or interest. Use tools like a power/interest grid to help prioritize your stakeholder engagement efforts.
  • Document and Review: Document all stakeholder communications and regularly review them. This will help in tracking commitments, understanding stakeholder sentiment over time, and ensuring you’re on track.

Remember, the essence of stakeholder management lies in understanding people, their motivations, and their constraints, and then working collaboratively towards shared goals.

To gain a service-oriented view of stakeholder management, refer to the PMO Services and Capabilities book

For further reading on the topic, refer to the following:

  • Bourne, L. (2016). Stakeholder relationship management: A maturity model for organisational implementation. CRC Press.
  • Markiewicz, A., & Patrick, I. (2015). Developing monitoring and evaluation frameworks. Sage Publications.
  • Minoja, M. (2012). Stakeholder management theory, firm strategy, and ambidexterity. Journal of Business Ethics, 109(1), 67–82.
  • O’Riordan, L. (2017). Managing sustainable stakeholder relationships. Springer Verlag.
  • Furjanic, S. W., & Trotman, L. A. (2000). Turning training into learning: How to design and deliver programs that get results. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.
  • Harward, D., Taylor, K., & Hall, R. (2014). What makes a great training organization?: A handbook of best practices. Pearson Education.
  • Eskerod, P., & Jepsen, A. L. (2016). Project stakeholder management. Routledge.
  • Stakeholder Management: 50 Quick and Easy Ways to Become Brilliant at Project Stakeholder Management, by Bryan Barrow
  • Practical Project Stakeholder Management: Methods, Tools and Templates for Comprehensive Stakeholder Management, by Emanuela Giangregorio, 2nd edition.

Author

  • AIPMO

    AIPMO is the Association of International Project Management Officers, founded in 2015.