PM 201: Manage Stakeholder Expectations

Creating SMART goals in priority areas for your life is a daunting first step on the journey to project managing your life. At the define requirements stage, we started to address the feasibility of pursuing some of these goals. The intermediate coursework demands—what else?—further planning.

Stakeholder Analysis

You can’t accomplish your goals all on your own. Stakeholder analysis requires you to assess what external actors may influence your goal. To do so, consider the following steps:

Develop a list of affected stakeholders. Stakeholders could range from partners to friends to colleagues to the larger community. Get creative in this category to make sure you don’t leave anyone out. The other drivers on your morning commute that stop you from getting to the gym? They absolutely count as stakeholders. Guess what? So do you.

For each of your goals, create a stakeholder impact matrix. Assess how each of your stakeholders will help or hinder you in the pursuit of your goal. For example, will your partner commit to buying only healthy foods so you aren’t tempted to indulge? If so, that’s a check in the plus column. Will your colleagues continue to bring donuts to work on Fridays? A negative. Be sure to consider what expectations your stakeholders may have for you and how that impacts your plan. For example, if you’re expecting to go to the gym at 6am each day, but your boss expects you at work at 7:30 sharp, is that time commitment reasonable?

Craft a remediation plan. Outline how you will deal with each of the challenges you identified in the previous step. If your colleagues bring donuts every week, how often will you indulge? Never? Once a month? Only if they have glazed? What about your gym time? Is it worth negotiating your working hours with your boss? Come up with an action plan so that you are prepared for any issues that may arise.

Stakeholder Management

Manage stakeholder expectations

Manage stakeholder expectations

Once you’ve mapped your stakeholders, next comes their management. You need to ensure that you are keeping the lines of communication open with any affected parties. The best way to do this is to conduct a weekly review. You’re probably thinking—wow? Weekly? Is that really necessary? Can’t I just dig out my goals on my birthday, New Year’s, and when spring cleaning, like the rest of the world? Well, certainly you can. But, I’d remind you that monitoring and controlling is one of the Project Management Body of Knowledge process groups. Also remember that living your dreams requires investing the time to plan.

When I first started conducting weekly reviews, it took me 4-6 hours to set up the process, including creating a tracking system for my goals, researching what questions to ask, and creating a template that I could populate each week. I got the process down to between 30 and 60 minutes once this was in place. When I halved my goals from 4 to 2, I shortened my review time to between 15 and 30 minutes. Per week. Not a bad time investment on the road to world domination.

Here are some simple steps to consider when conducting your weekly review:

  1. Review your goals and list your accomplishments from the past week.

  2. Assess what worked and what didn’t. If you didn’t make it to the gym on Wednesday, why not? What can you do differently to avoid this issue in the future? How did your stakeholders help or hurt you?

  3. Document your planned progress for the week ahead. To prevent burnout, limit your list to no more than three items.

  4. Encourage yourself. Find some way to celebrate to keep yourself going. This sounds corny, but I have to confess that I have a Pinterest board chock full of inspirational quotes that I review each week to remind myself not to give up. Your encouragement may be rewarding yourself with streaming your favorite mindless action movie or reality show after a long week at work. Whatever you need to keep going, do it! Remember that a big part of stakeholder management is managing yourself.

Stay tuned for the next phase of project managing your life—managing your constraints.