Stakeholder and Change Management

Image of Stakeholder Management

SIG University  Certified Sourcing Professional  (CSP) program graduate Brynn Wheeler describes how to manage stakeholders for RFX by fostering a trusting atmosphere and inspiring participation.

For a project manager, there is nothing more frustrating than putting 110% into a project, seemingly following all the proper steps to completion, and yet watching leadership dispose of one ‘s hard work in the figurative corporate trash bin of project postponement or cancellation. One might take all the necessary steps, create, and distribute all the necessary deliverables, yet the project fails to capture the support of key decision-makers.

Though many factors can lead to project failure, one lesser discussed but arguably most catastrophic is the mindset and perceptions of a project ‘s stakeholders. Persuading a stubborn and indifferent stakeholder to see the value of supporting one ‘s project efforts may be challenging but is not impossible. PMs can overcome resistance by building trust and inspiring confidence through a stakeholder-focused approach to project management.

The first step a PM must take after being assigned a project is to identify each internal stakeholder and investigate their interests and motivations. PMs should assess each player ‘s level of category knowledge, distance to operational tasks, level of seniority, and level of ownership. Most importantly, one must also understand the time constraints of each stakeholder. Utilizing a RACI, or similar stakeholder mapping tool, to document one ‘s findings is crucial as it will be used for reference when designing the communication strategy.

After compiling and reporting this information, PM ‘s should start investigating what possible motives may be at play for each stakeholder. For example, more senior stakeholders with less involvement in operational tasks and less availability may only want to be involved at a high level and shown only critical information. This type of stakeholder may also be more bottom-line focused and interested in savings or maybe more interested in high-level initiatives like sustainability or total cost of ownership impacts. It is vital that PMs have any necessary one-on-one open conversations to identify each stakeholder ‘s priorities.

Once a PM has a complete stakeholder map of roles, responsibilities, and motivations, it ‘s time to develop a communication plan. As mentioned, stakeholders will vary in their availability to participate in the project and whether they require granular or high-level information. They may also vary in the type of information they need to be aware of. For example, a stakeholder in branding & marketing may be less interested in hearing about supply chain constraints, while an operations stakeholder may not want to sit through a 30-minute presentation on creative design capabilities. Stakeholders will appreciate a PM ‘s ability to tailor presentations and communications to their scope of responsibilities as much as possible.

During key milestone meetings where all stakeholders are present, multiple business areas will be discussed, so it ‘s crucial to keep each at a high level. Lengthy presentations with an unbalanced focus on specific business functions can harm a stakeholder ‘s level of support. For the stakeholders, a PM identifies as possible non-believers in the project mission, a one-on-one communication approach may be necessary. PMs can take on these difficult internal customers by communicating the key persuading points identified in the first step to get them on board. One should pay close attention to their concerns and revise the persuasion plan as needed. It’s crucial to tackle this early on, as an analyst stakeholder that remains onboard through project development is the iceberg to a project’s Titanic.

PM ‘s inspire confidence in their stakeholders with a professional and structured approach to their projects. Especially when working with new internal partners, one may face resistance or uncertainty from their stakeholders. The best way for a PM to build trust is by demonstrating their expertise with their actions and attention to detail. Deliverables are a great way to inspire confidence in one ‘s management skills. One should create and present a detailed project timeline in Excel early in scope development, showing each phase and its approximate duration, even if it ‘s an estimate and subject to change. Another way to bolster confidence is to present out a RACI during project kickoff, driving team member confidence that all duties will be addressed. Finally, throughout all early project discussions, it ‘s critical to use encouraging, motivating, and teamwork-focused language, as this will maximize participation from one ‘s stakeholders.

In the final step of a stakeholder-focused approach, a project manager should execute the project strategy and establish a reliable feedback method of communication. With much of the groundwork laid out early in project development, execution should require fewer resources and be seamless. During execution, it ‘s vital to still touch base with one ‘s stakeholders to be sure they ‘re on track. One should seek feedback during and after project completion and tailor their communication and strategy accordingly. Finally, at project conclusion, a PM should always have an open conversation with their stakeholders about project results and what could be done differently to make the process more efficient.

Carrying out a project without stakeholder buy-in is a key driver in project failure. As project managers, we often focus more on the deliverable requirements for completion but forget that people play an equally, if not more important, role in project success. For PMs with demanding internal customers, all hope is not lost. Building a communication and motivation strategy to inspire confidence and persuade participation can lead a project manager out of the hopelessness of project stagnation and into the promise of success.

The  Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) Program  is a 10-week course that focuses on the hard and soft skills of sourcing, including strategic sourcing and outsourcing methodologies, as well as best practices in negotiations.

Brynn Wheeler

Brynn Wheeler

Procurement Specialist, Sprouts Farmer's market

Brynn Wheeler is a procurement specialist at Sprouts Farmer's Market with over six years of experience in procurement and supply chain, with four of those years in indirect procurement. She started her career at Arizona State University while pursuing her undergraduate degrees, where she trained under a team of faculty procurement research professors within ASU's School of sustainable built engineering. There, she consulted clients on improving their sourcing processes by incorporating cutting-edge procurement research and a philosophy of leveraging vendor expertise for program success. After graduating with a BS in Supply Chain Management and BS in Business Marketing, Brynn went on to work for Boeing and American Airlines in their direct sourcing organizations. In 2020, Brynn left the aerospace domain to join Sprouts' indirect sourcing team as an analyst and has since advanced to a procurement specialist. She has sourced categories ranging from branded apparel, IT hardware, interior aircraft parts and assemblies, sustainability, store supplies, and more.