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09th Mar 2021
Communication with stakeholders is so important that research shows project managers spend about 90% of their time communicating with stakeholders. Due to the large investment in this activity, as you progress in your project management career it is essential you’re effective and efficient with your communication.
In this article we provide an easy to follow approach to help you build on your project management skills and improve your communication with your stakeholders, using the format of who, what, why and how. This format will ensure you cover common questions such as:
Step one in your stakeholder communication approach is to know who your stakeholders are. Stakeholders can be a person, a group or even an organisation that will be positively or negatively affected by the outcome of your project and can have different degrees of influence on the success of your project.
Stakeholders can be:
When planning for a project, take the time to create a comprehensive list of the different stakeholders and outline their requirements, influence, expectations, responsibilities, and communication needs. This list of stakeholders can be outlined in the project plan.
Remember a big part of what a project manager does on a daily basis is managing and prioritising your stakeholders. While you should treat each stakeholder with dignity and respect, remember which ones have the most influence and therefore require the most attention.
Communication with stakeholders is important only if it offers them value and is in a mode that they will be able to understand. Therefore it’s wise to find out:
Once you’re aware of what information your stakeholders need, also take the time to find out why that information is so important to them.
We all know managing projects can be stressful, which is why having a strong working relationship with your team members, customers and suppliers that is built on trust is essential.
Your stakeholders are the only ones that can truly tell you the value of the information.
So before you start a project, speak to everyone from the executive team, your team members to your clients about what the value is behind the information they are seeking.
A communication plan, which outlines what and when you will communicate, can be useful to keep on top of your communication with stakeholders. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a separate document, however can be included in your project management plan.
When you’re drafting your communication plan, consider your stakeholders’ ongoing communication needs. This could include face to face discussions with the client, daily check ins with team members and project update meetings with senior executives.
Finding out how they would like to be communicated with, what they want to be kept informed about and how often they would like updates will go a long way to ensure your stakeholder communication strategy is an effective one.
Often in spite of all your hard work, some stakeholders will not attend meetings or view project communication. If you find your project is already underway, and you’re not gaining feedback from your stakeholders, then it is best to send out a formal record of what was discussed and approved at the project meetings.
Throughout the project monitor your relationships with your stakeholders. Keep a record of what you have communicated and how the relationship is improving or degenerating. This will allow you to adapt your approach and incorporate this useful information into lessons learned. Completing a specific plan for each stakeholder or stakeholder group is advised.
Where possible invest in project management software that provides up-to-date reports and allows stakeholders to pull the information they need or you can simply schedule the information to be sent. This can save you a few hours each week.
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