Successful Project Management: How to Manage Stakeholders

January 10, 2013 Marcus Varner

I love project management folks. We're doers. In an environment where so many people are happy to talk about stuff, we're the ones making sure stuff actually gets done. We have our list of tasks, other's tasks, and so on, and that's what we live or die by. This makes us the action heroes of the business world, but it also makes us a little** blind to the other forces** that influence the success or failure of our projects.

I'm talking about stakeholders, people! We've all had experiences in which, regardless of how well the project was going, a disgruntled stakeholder with their own perception stopped the project in its tracks. I'm not saying this is right or wrong (I think it's wrong, just for the record), but we all have to agree that stakeholders are a reality of project management. One that won't be going away anytime soon.

So, for the sake of our projects' success, we have no choice but to learn how to manage our stakeholders with the same finesse with which we manage our projects. In our action hero routine, we must make room for a little politics and communication.

And how do we successfully manage stakeholders? For the answer I turn to a much more able source, Vivian Kloosterman at The PM Hut. In her thorough post on the subject, "Why Stakeholder Management and Mapping Is Key to Successful Project Management," Vivian outlines how to create systematic process for identifying and reinforcing communications with your project's stakeholders. It's awesome stuff, which you definitely need to read in full (I mean, if you're really serious about this whole project management thing). Here's my favorite blurb from the whole thing:

"Using a matrix which maps stakeholders according to their influence and interest allows you to paint a picture of your stakeholders' level of involvement and therefore the type of engagement that you need to have with them. You get an understanding of what motivates your stakeholders and how you need to win them around."

Check out the full post at the PM Hut if you haven't already clicked on the link above. It is definitely a gold nugget of project management wisdom that you don't want to miss.

Discussion time! How do you identify, manage, and communicate with your stakeholders to keep your projects on track? What problems have you encountered with project stakeholders? Share the details in the comments below!

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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