To Manage Your Stakeholders Effectively, Start with a Communications Plan

The difference in project plan outcomes with and without a good communication plan is a real eye-opener for managers. When well-executed, the workflow of a project can advance seamlessly among stakeholders and break down departmental communication silos. Managing project stakeholders is critical to the success of every project. The first step to developing an efficient and effective communications plan is to assess the individuals on the team to determine who are the most essential team members for the project.

Building the grid

Throughout their training and certification, project managers learn about the communication plan process and the role it plays in effective project management. Without a plan, communications can be disjointed and fractured, creating the potential for conflict and miscommunication. Because stakeholders often consist of contributors from different disciplines and functions, managers should conduct a thorough analysis of their team to determine the right talent for each aspect of the communication plan. Stakeholder gridOne technique is to build a plotted grid that conveys each stakeholder’s relationship to the project. Doing so facilitates the categorization of individual employees, determining where his or her efforts will be most effective for the project. In the grid, the X axis identifies the level of interest, or how much the stakeholder will be affected by the outcome, and the Y axis signifies influence, or how much he or she can impact the finished project. Each quadrant, measured from low to high, would help measure the specific value of each project team member and develop the framework for the communication plan. Using the grid, leaders measure how much members of a team will contribute to the success of the project. Employees with high levels of interest and power would be more effective than members with lower levels of these attributes, while those with mixed levels can still positively influence the assignment. From there, managers must decide who will be included in the project.

Managing stakeholder expectations

Stakeholders can vary in terms of influence and interests. While the team assignment itself could drive completion, many factors can impact the project’s success. Several warning signs can point to project management trouble, such as missed deadlines and conflicts among stakeholders. To combat these challenges and break down communication silos, project managers must actively follow their communication plans to the end. It is the only way to keep stakeholders in check and ensure that the project’s needs are met in an efficient manner. Regular meetings—both virtual and in-person—can keep everyone up to speed on progress and serve to better manage stakeholders’ expectations.

Learning from experienced professionals

At Merit Career Development, courses are customized to provide flexibility and meet an organization’s needs. In its experience running effective project management training, Merit has found that many managers were not creating a communication plan, endangering the success of their projects. To illustrate the impact ineffective communication plans can make, Merit had managers run a simulation of a stakeholders meeting without a communication strategy in place. The inefficiencies of this non-strategy were apparent from the start. Merit then had the managers run through the same scenario with a communication plan in place. The differences were dramatic. There was a marked improvement in performance as managers realized the indispensable benefits of effectual planning and were able to better coordinate efforts among the team. Teaching project managers the essentials of developing effective communications plans has become an important component of Merit’s project management training. Merit actively looks to turn on the light bulb for project managers so that the value of efficient communication is crystal clear for them. The solution lies in getting the participants to struggle in the first hour of training in order to understand the benefits of the second hour and the importance of a plan. This can help save time and reduce errors, repetition and confusion among stakeholders and lead to better financial gains for the business. To learn more, review Merit’s course list or contact Merit today.

Click here to find out more about Merit's Stakeholder Management Course


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

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