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Reflections from PMI Global Congress 2015

By Tara D. Holwegner and Sherri Large, Life Cycle Institute

The PMI Global Congress 2015 in Orlando, FL was a great experience! Stakeholder Management was a common theme in many of the sessions. Although this knowledge area is new to the PMBOK® as of the most recent fifth edition, it resonated well with those in attendance.

In our conversations with attendees, few had formalized processes in place for integrating stakeholder activities into their project management plans. By the end of the conference, however, those struggling with managing and engaging stakeholders should have left with some key insights on where to begin.

Dr. Clemith Houston delivered a research-packed session titled “Perspectives on Research and Case Studies of Primary Factors for Project Success.” We found it interesting that in the last four years, the success rates of projects has remained flat, despite all of the advancements in project management tools, methodologies and well-credentialed talent. In addition, those numbers showed that roughly 40% of projects are not meeting their objectives. Not surprisingly, one of the top three reasons projects are failing to meet objectives is failure to engage stakeholders (Calleum Consulting 2015). If that isn’t proof enough, in a study of 42 IT projects, 65% of them failed due to “people issues” (McManus and Wood Harper 2007).

In his session, “Change Management: Show, Don’t Tell,” David Maxfield pointed out the importance of assessing stakeholders to determine who the influencers are. He suggested asking people in the organization who they would go to for answers to questions or guidance on processes. Most of the time, two-thirds of people asked will say the same few names. Those people whose names kept coming up would be considered the influencers. These are the stakeholders to win over who can serve as your “army” for the change.

Another great session was Jeralyn Rittenhouse’s session titled “Improving Stakeholder Management Using Change Management Tools.” She also discussed how to determine stakeholders and assess their impact on the project using a force field analysis technique. Stakeholder resistance is ever-present on projects, no matter how positive the foreseen outcome is. Jeralyn cited six approaches to dealing with resistance from Kotter and Schlesinger:

1. Education and communication
2. Participation and involvement
3. Facilitation and support
4. Negotiation/agreement
5. Manipulation
6. Explicit/Implicit coercion

In many organizations, the sponsor’s involvement on projects is limited to funding, and checking in when things go wrong. Effective stakeholder management teaches us that sponsors need to be involved early on in the project by playing an active role to set the vision and champion the change. According to Ori Schibi, a sponsor should ask him or herself “What can I do to benefit the project?” Meanwhile, project managers should look for what they need the sponsor to benefit. This mutually beneficial relationship can help the sponsor be more deliberate about his role on the project. 

Are you doing enough to manage and engage the people, groups and organizations who can impact or are impacted by your project? We can help you determine if your initiative is poised for success and build a business case for stakeholder management.

Sincerely,
Tara and Sherri
Education@LCE.com

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