Align Stakeholder Expectations… Or Be Prepared To Deal With A Toxic Fall-out!

This is where all the trouble starts. When we asked project managers what they would like to fix first they always answered without doubt, “the varied project expectations and outcomes/deliverables that most of our stakeholders do not agree on.”

This is the second blog by Mat-Thys in the series “Managing Projects: The Forgotten Art Of Influencing People To Get Results”

This is the underlying reason causing effects such as:

  • Scope creep – end users assuming that their expectations were covered by the project scope and are now trying to include this into the scope.
  • Vendor issues – vendors who were not aware that a specific expectation also included “x” and now would drive the costs beyond the reach of profitability.
  • Budgeting issues – resources not planned for because it was not anticipated correctly and not included in the design phases of the project causing time and budget issues.
  • Resources issues – non-availability of SME resources when needed and scheduling difficulties to get resources at a time and place when they are needed.
  • Quality of work – the quality of work suffers due to having to cut corners trying to incorporate certain additional work not originally planned for.

There are three steps involved in aligning stakeholder expectations. They are:

1. Identifying all the appropriate stakeholders

Identifying all the appropriate stakeholders who need to provide outputs/deliverables/inputs into this project and also those stakeholders who will have to provide services to achieve the deliverables agreed to. As you can see from the statement above we need to consider various stakeholders based on the following two questions:

a. Who do we need to consider that would have some kind of vested interest in this project?

This normally involves decision makers inside and most importantly outside the company. This also includes those that could consciously or sub-consciously influence the effectiveness of your project. Lastly, you need to consider the implementers and contributors that you would rely on to provide inputs that would make this project successful.

b. Who do we need to consider that would be influenced or affected by this project?

This would provide a different set of stakeholders and in many cases, they would overlap with some of the stakeholders already listed above. By the same token, we could also identify important ones that we might have overlooked. This question normally identifies those stakeholders we tend to not think about, such as a security guard at the entrance of your work complex having requirements about vehicles entering the facility.

2. Do a requirement analysis for all the stakeholders.

At this stage we have another shortcoming entering the equation and that is we tend to use a Business Analyst to do this task. In most companies, they normally are junior staff who do not have the necessary business knowledge or experience to fully understand a requirement being listed by a Business person. They cannot question its validity or talk about the requirement meaningfully. I know that it would be more expensive to use an experienced person, but I will guarantee you that it will cost you less than what the scope creep is going to cost you eventually.

3. Align the requirements and expectations.

This is the most difficult part, but if done correctly would have a major impact on your project staff and the eventual success in terms of costs, time and quality of your project. I would suggest you do the following:

a. Summarize all the requirements that align

Summarize all the requirements that align from the outset, because they do not need any further discussion. Put all of these in a document and circulate for all the stakeholders to evaluate.

b. Conduct an “Expectations Alignment” meeting

Conduct an “Expectations Alignment” meeting with all the stakeholders involved. This could be one meeting or several meetings with the vested interest parties only. It is normally more productive to have specific meetings with appropriate vested stakeholders.

It might seem like “overkill” to do it this way, but believe me, if you follow these guidelines you will have a 100% improved chance of running a successful project. You would have been proactive in solving one of the most important causes for project failure.

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This blog and this entire series of blogs were first published by Thinking Dimensions Global.

Mat-Thys Fourie
"I believe that Management would like to see their staff as skilled problem solvers, solving and restoring service issues/incidents 'first time every time', reducing company Mean Time to Restore and Mean Time To Repair cycles. This is done by providing staff with repeatable tools/templates and worked situational questions to stay on the path through organizational difficulties and barriers towards restoration and successful recovery." Dr. Matthys Fourie is a Professional Problem Solver as accredited by the Institute of Professional Problem Solvers (IPPS). He is an author of several books on Root Cause Analysis, Project Management, Problem Solving and is the co-author of the KEPNERandFOURIE® Thinking methodologies. He has over 31 years of Problem Solving and Decision Making experience helping organizations across the world solve some of their most vexing and seemingly unsolvable problems. He has worked across a wide spectrum of industries from Automotive, Financial, Manufacturing, Medical Devices, Pharmaceutical, Nuclear, Insurance, Airline, Technology, and Telecommunications. He has work in companies such as Macquarie Group, SASOL, Unisys, SITA, Barclays, RBS, NCS, Singapore Stock Exchange, BMW, VW, Cadbury Schweppes, Westpac, National Australia Bank, Department of Education NSW Australia, Kimberly-Clark, Hollister, Stihl Inc. and the U.S. Navy.