Managing stakeholder expectations is an important part of managing project-based work. If you're lucky, project stakeholders have clearly defined the value of what the successful outcome of their project might look like. I say lucky because unfortunately, clearly defining the potential value of an initiative before the project has begun seems to be the exception rather than the rule in most organizations.
However, if success is not clearly defined, it's up to the project manager to initiate a dialogue to determine the value and desired outcome. Otherwise, it's difficult to successfully complete any project. And what's more, it's never a good idea to be measured against a moving target.
In most organizations, a stakeholders attention span is pretty short. Long projects that require a lot of stakeholder patience tend to falter and ultimately fail. Providing value regularly, at short (3-4 week) intervals, keeps stakeholders engaged and interested.
It's sometimes easy for change orders to morph a project into something different than what was intended. Keeping stakeholders focused on the objective can be challenging, but it's critical for project success. If a change doesn't contribute to the defined objective, stakeholders need to understand the ramifications and how changes could impact the final outcome.
When reporting to stakeholders, it's important to remember that executives aren't as interested in your particular work management methodology as they are in results. Keep stakeholder communication focused on progress and value. Be concise and brief. Sending a lot of time buried in the details with stakeholders will not only be frustrating for them—it doesn't do you any good either.
So just to recap, keeping stakeholders engaged and keeping their expectations tethered to reality come down to these four keys:
- Make sure "project success" is clearly defined before the project begins
- Don't make stakeholders wait too long before they start to see value
- Execute against the objective to ensure project success
- Keep it simple when communicating with project stakeholders
Ignore these tips at your own peril.
Looking for more tips on how to keep stakeholders happy? You might be interested in our post, "Effective Stakeholder Management: 10 Tips For Better Communication."
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