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Project Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area: A Guide to Stakeholder Engagement

Project Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area- A Guide to Stakeholder Engagement

Project Stakeholder Management is the last of the 10 knowledge areas (KAs) in the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 6th Edition. This seems to me to underplay its crucial importance to good Project Management.

Indeed, the PMBOK Guide says:

The ability of the project manager and team to correctly identify and engage all stakeholders in an appropriate way can mean the difference between project success and failure.

Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 6th Edition (PMBOK Guide)
Chapter 13: Project Stakeholder Management
Published by the Project Management Institute, 2017

We’ve published a lot of articles touching on project stakeholder management. Or stakeholder engagement, as I prefer to call it. So, why another one?

Who this Guide is for

This article is designed as an over-arching guide to the topic of Project Stakeholder Management. I’ve designed it for:

  • New Project Managers who want a first introduction to the topic
  • Aspiring PMI PMP and CAPM candidates, who want a guide that relates to their syllabus – following the format of the PMBOK Guide
  • More experienced Project Managers who want a structured refresher on the topic, with plenty of links to more detailed content

And this is our first article of 2020. So, it’s also a reminder that a great New Year’s Resolution for any project manager is better stakeholder engagement!

What’s in this Guide

Before we get to the contents of this guide, let’s put it into the context of the PMI’s ‘Project Stakeholder Management’ knowledge area.

The PMBOK Guide Project Stakeholder Management Processes

The 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide divides this into four processes.

  1. Identify Stakeholders
    Identify and understand the interests, influence, interdependencies, and possible impact of your stakeholders.
  2. Plan Stakeholder Engagement
    Develop your approach to engaging your stakeholders.
  3. Manage Stakeholder Engagement
    Communicating and working with your stakeholders.
  4. Monitor Stakeholder Engagement
    Monitor your stakeholder relationships and tailor your strategies as you go.

As with all processes in the PMBOK Guide, these each have a set of ITTOs:

  • Inputs
  • Tools
  • Techniques
  • Outputs

The ‘Identify Stakeholders’ process includes identifying and analyzing your stakeholders. But I prefer to split these two out as separate processes. So, you’ll see two separate sections in the contents below.

Project Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area- A Guide to Stakeholder Engagement

Contents

Introduction to Project Stakeholder Management

Let’s start at the very beginning, by defining what we mean by the word Stakeholder,

What is a Stakeholder?

My preferred definition is the simplest possible.

Stakeholder: anyone who has any interest in what you are doing.

The Influence Agenda: A Systematic Approach to Aligning Stakeholders in Times of Change
Author: Mike Clayton | Publisher: Palgrave Mcmillan, 2014

However, you may need to understand the perspectives of other organizations. So, I’ll offer some alternatives. And I’ll present them in order of increasing verbosity (number of words).

But, I think you’ll agree, they all say the same thing!

APM

Individuals or groups who have an interest or role in the project, programme, or portfolio, or are impacted by it.

APM Body of Knowledge, 7th Edition
Glossary
Published by the Association for Project management, 2019

PRINCE2

An individual, group or organization that can affect, be affected by or perceive itself affected by, an initiative (ie a programme, project, activity or risk).

Managing Successfl Projects with PRINCE2, 6th edition
Glossary
Published by TSO, Copyright © Axelos, 2017

PMI

An individual, group, or organization that may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project, program, or portfolio.

Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 6th Edition (PMBOK Guide)
Glossary
Published by the Project Management Institute, 2017

Where Does the Term ‘Stakeholder’ Come from?

By the way, have you ever wondered where we get the word ‘stakeholder’ from? I researched it for my book, ‘The Influence Agenda’, and made this short video, describing the history of the word.

What is Project Stakeholder Management?

The PMI is now (PMBOK Guide 6th Edition) somewhat out of date in referring to Project Stakeholder Management. Most progressive organizations, writers, trainers, and project managers have, for some while, preferred the term Project Stakeholder Engagement.

I’ll explain why I do too, in this short video…

What Approaches do others take to Project Stakeholder Engagement

The PMI takes a very standard approach to Stakeholder Engagement. Even its ‘trends and emerging practices’ largely lists things I would have thought of as standard 20 years ago!

  • ‘Identifying all stakeholders, not just a limited set’
    Really – when did any credible PM ever recommend ignoring any stakeholders?
  • Involving all team members in stakeholder engagement
    Of course you do. Why wouldn’t you?
  • Reviewing your stakeholder community often
    They liken this to risk management reviews and, again, I’ve been teaching this for 20 years
  • Thinking in terms of benefits and costs of not engaging
    Too many lessons of1980s and 1990s make this point. If PMI has only just awoken to this reality, then shame on them!

Only one ’emerging trend’ strikes me as on-trend. Involving stakeholders in co-creation. This is an essential component of Design Thinking that underpins a lot of Agile Project Management.

I have outlined the four processes that the PMI uses to describe its Project Stakeholder Management knowledge area above. Before we look at them in detail, let’s take a quick look at how the APM and PRINCE2 address the same area of knowledge.

The APMBoK on Stakeholder Engagement

As you would expect, if you’ve read my review of the 7th Edition of the APM’s Body of Knowledge, APM takes a different approach to PMI. The approach is complementary but far less prescriptive. Unlike its earlier editions of the APMBoK, this one makes no attempt to define a process.

Instead, it gives us a section (Engaging Stakeholders) of Chapter 3 (People and Behaviours), with five parts. The first introduces the topic of stakeholders and offers three excellent – but fairly advanced – recommendations for further reading. The other four parts give an overview and reading recommendations for four specific skill-sets within the wider stakeholder engagement knowledge area:

  • Social context
  • Engagement and influence
  • Facilitation
  • Conflict resolution

The APMBoK assumes a certain level of PM knowledge and experience. It doesn’t attempt to offer a basic guide to this (or any other) topic. But, for serious project management professionals, it is an excellent reference. Do take a look at it.

APMBoK uses the term ‘Engaging Stakeholders’, rather than Project Stakeholder Management.

PRINCE2 on Stakeholder Engagement

PRINCE2 is light on its coverage of stakeholder engagement. Instead, it refers readers to the process set out in the companion methodology, Managing Successful Programmes (MSP).

This does make sense. PRINCE2 is not so much about ‘how to manage a project’ as about how to impose good governance on your projects. Therefore, core knowledge areas and toolsets like stakeholder engagement are not within its purview.

PRINCE2 uses the term ‘Stakeholder Engagement’, rather than Project Stakeholder Management.

MSP on Stakeholder Engagement

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) is a companion methodology to PRINCE2, which focuses on Program Management. In it, we see a six-step process for stakeholder engagement:

  1. Identifying stakeholders
  2. Creating and analyzing stakeholder profiles
  3. Defining the stakeholder engagement approach
  4. Planning the engagements
  5. Engaging stakeholders
  6. Measuring effectiveness

MSP offers us a number of useful checklists, diagrams, and tables. The guidebook to MSP makes an excellent reference for project managers moving beyond the basics.

MSP uses the term ‘Stakeholder Engagement’, rather than Project Stakeholder Management.

A Comparison of Approaches and Terminology

Comparison of Stakeholder Engagement Processes

How I illustrate the Stakeholder Engagement Process

Stakeholder Leadership - Stakeholder Engagement Process

Identify Stakeholders

The Project Stakeholder Management process starts with identifying who your stakeholders are. And the best advice I can give is to draw your net as widely as possible. You’ll later be able to prioritize them, so minimize the risk of missing any by looking within and outside your organization for anyone with any interest at all, in your project.

The PMBOK Guide’s ITTO suggests brainstorming and brainwriting, questionnaires and surveys. There are plenty more approaches you can take.

Why not start with a pre-made list of basic stakeholders. You’ll find some online, and we have a list of 127 in our list, within our Project Checklists kit.

Click here to open your PDF Stakeholder Checklist in a new window. You’ll be able to download it from there.

Analyze Stakeholders

Once we know who our stakeholders are, we need to understand them. In the PMBOK Guide, this is part of the Identify Stakeholders process. But it is a substantial and important task. Big enough to merit its own stage in most methodologies.

Our analysis requires us to look at what we know about each stakeholder, and make reasonable working assumptions, where we lack knowledge. The sort of things that will interest us about them include:

  • Interest
    What interest each stakeholder or stakeholder group has in your project
  • Power and formal authority
    How much the stakeholder can compel certain decisions
  • Influence and informal authority
    Their strength of character and ability to persuade
  • Rights
    Any legal or moral rights with regards to the project or its impacts – this includes asset ownership
  • Attitude
    How does the stakeholder view the project – do they see it as beneficial, detrimental, or neutral to their interests
  • Knowledge and expertise
    What does the stakeholder know and what can they do to support or oppose the project?
  • Contribution
    In what other ways can they support or oppose the project?
  • Motivation
    To what extent are they likely to support or oppose the project?

Stakeholder Analysis Methodologies

The PMBOK Guide offers four tools (plus prioritization, which we’ll return to) for analyzing your stakeholders:

  1. Two-dimensional grids
  2. Three-dimensional grid (cube)
  3. Salience model
  4. Directions of influence

If you are studying for PMP or CAPM, then do read these carefully and look up further details. For more information, please do take a look at our detailed article:

Prioritization

Stakeholder engagement is vitally important. Yet, in the real world of limited resources, you will need to prioritize which stakeholders get the bulk of your attention. We use these analysis tools to determine which are most important to the long-term success of our project.

Or, as PMI points out, which need your attention to best avoid costly errors or failures!

Plan Stakeholder Engagement

Now it is time to build a plan. While the MSP stakeholder engagement process distinguishes your strategy (how you will engage and what you are going to communicate) from your plan (when you will engage), I don’t see this precise distinction as quite right.

Of course, the PMBOK Guide does not distinguish these at all. It offers us a set of inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs that yield your Stakeholder Engagement Plan.

A Strategic Approach to Stakeholder Engagement

For each stakeholder, what will be your strategy? Not the tactical detail of how you will engage, but what are you seeking to achieve? That should give you the approach to take. For example, your priority may be to:

  • learn from them
  • influence them
  • inform them
  • instruct them

I’ve created a full article on this topic:

Developing a Stakeholder Engagement Plan

This is another big topic, which I have covered in detail in its own article:

Action: Manage Stakeholder Engagement

I understand why PMI has continued to refer to Project Stakeholder Management, rather than ‘engagement’. It’s to fit with the titles of its other 9 Knowledge Areas. I would hope that, next time around, the PMBOK 7th Edition will eschew knowledge area names that merely create a pleasing pattern.

Instead, I hope we’ll see Project Stakeholder Engagement. But then, I suspect there will be far bigger changes in the 7th edition. FAR BIGGER!

But I do favor the term Stakeholder Engagement Management for the process of managing your stakeholder engagement process: working your plan.

The Stakeholder Engagement Skillset

Good stakeholder engagement – like so much of Project Management – is all about communication. PMI, APM, and my own book, The Influence Agenda, all identify core skills. Taking everything together, the superset makes a good list.

  • Cultural Awareness (PMI, TIA)
  • Questioning (TIA)
  • Observation (including listening) (PMI, TIA)
  • Conversation and Collaboration (PMI, TIA)
  • Storytelling (TIA)
  • Influence and Persuasion (APM, TIA)
  • Facilitation (APM)
  • Negotiation (PMI)
  • Copywriting (TIA)
  • Conflict Management/Resolution and Handling Resistance (PMI, APM, TIA)
  • Political Awareness/Acumen (including social context) (PMI, APM, TIA)
  • Crisis Management (TIA)

Dealing with Challenging Stakeholders

I often find that there is one thing project managers fear most. And that is dealing with difficult stakeholders and handling the inevitable resistance and objections we get when we set out to create change.

We have two great articles to help you with this.

  1. 4 Steps to Engage Difficult Stakeholders
    The first is a guest article from the fabulous Elise Stevens.
  2. How to Handle Stakeholder Objections
    The second looks at different reasons why stakeholders resist, and how to deal with them.

Review: Monitor Stakeholder Engagement

The Monitor and Review Cycle is the beating heart of a project during the delivery stage. And likewise, it’s a crucial part of your project stakeholder engagement management process.

The PMBOK Guide says disappointingly little about this stage. I like to think in terms of three review cycles, which I discuss in detail, in The Influence Agenda.

  1. The Maintenance Cycle
    Reviewing your plan after you have taken action, and adjusting it accordingly.
  2. The Persuasion Cycle
    Reviewing your analysis if your plans are not working. The likely reason is that you got your assessment of the stakeholder wrong. This is also the cycle where you review your prioritization based on new information.
  3. The Response Cycle
    This is a periodic review to look for new stakeholders who have either emerged onto the scene, or who were there… but you omitted them.

Evaluating Your Project Stakeholder Management Performance

MSP says virtually nothing (less than 200 words) on this. The PMBOK Guide says precisely nothing about this.

This is another big topic, and a somewhat advanced one. I discuss it in full, in The Influence Agenda. There, I offer a simple 7-step process:

  1. Determine the terms of reference for your review
  2. Develop evaluation criteria against which to evaluate performance
  3. Collect your data
  4. Analyze your data
  5. Present your report and recommendations
  6. Learn from the process
  7. Use the review results to further embed good stakeholder engagement practices into your culture

Although it does not address stakeholder engagement directly, if this topic interests you, you might like our article, Project Management Review: A Guide to Project Audit and Assurance.

Further Thoughts on Project Stakeholder Management

If you want to take your study of project stakeholder engagement further, we have more articles that offer different takes on the topic:

Some Final Tips for Good Stakeholder Engagement

What are Your Thoughts on Project Stakeholder Management?

I’d love to hear your experiences, questions, or insights about stakeholder engagement. Please do use the comments, below, and I’ll look forward to responding to every contribution.


About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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