Handling Challenging Stakeholders

How to handle challenging stakeholders?

Business analysts deal with many stakeholders, having varying degrees of influence and expectations. Some of the stakeholders could be very challenging to manage. Can there be some strategies to handle the stakeholders?

How to handle challenging stakeholders?

To know how to deal with challenging stakeholders we need to understand two things first: who are the stakeholders and what’s their interest in. One can identify n number of stakeholders who are related directly or indirectly to the project. They can be:

Your boss, Senior executives, Your co-workers, Your team, Customers, Prospective customers, Your family, Shareholders, Alliance partners, Suppliers, Lenders, Analysts, Future recruits, Key contributors, Government, Trades associations, media, Interest groups, Public, The community, Key advisers and so many

Stakeholders can be both organisations and people. Either case you need to communicate and interact with people. So, it is really important to realise who is your correct stakeholder.

Studies show there are 5 important stakeholders for a project. We have summarised them as:

  • Project manager
  • Project team
  • Functional management
  • Sponsors
  • Customers

You can classify them as internal or external depending upon their direct interest in the project.

Challenging Stakeholders

There could be several factors which make the interaction with the stakeholders challenging. It can be due to environmental factors like unknown stakeholders, or role vs project pressure. Or it can be due to behavioural factor i.e. lack of proper communication and or trust. Or sometimes it is due to the person’s attitude too.

And again, these can occur due to multiple reasons. May be the stakeholders are travelling a lot, and hence not able to give proper time and interest in the project. Or may be different meetings are consuming their significant amount of time. Or the stakeholder is far too demanding, they want some or the other changes in your delivered tasks. Or they have clash of interest with you. Or maybe lot of other processes are in pipeline and they are again not getting sufficient time to focus upon.

Whatever is the reason, a devised strategy will always be helpful to deal with tough stakeholders.

STRATEGIES

We have put together few strategies here to help you with.

Stakeholder – Person: Try to figure out what kind of a person is this stakeholder. Is he/she a process oriented, data oriented or result oriented? In fewer interactions you’ll get to know what level of detailed updates he/she requires.

Communication: Using right words and know where and how to use it.

Many stakeholders don’t want to be bombarded with overwhelming communications. Check for those mails, chats, messages, are they really necessary to be sent out to them? Check on your communications ensure you are not sending too many open-ended questions. Try to club all the questions together with proper analysis. Organise the questions then send out the email.

In case you feel not comfortable with the situation keep a check on your Self Control: Do not deal with issues when you are upset or feel like you are losing control. Reschedule the meetings. Postpone sending out any kind of communication.

Accepting their Authority: Psychology says there is a fine line between being authoritative and being egoistic. One should understand and accept the authority of the stakeholder. Many a times a stakeholder needs to put the foot down to take a decision. But this does not mean that the stakeholder is negative. Do not take things personally.

Being Honest: Everyone respects honesty. Be clear with your project status. Don’t hide anything. Let the concerned people know the issues if you have any. Do not manipulate stuffs.

Building trust: It is not simple to build trust, but neither it is difficult. This will help in developing rapport with the stakeholder. Being a Business Analyst, you are influential. Use this potential to interact with the stakeholders. If they want formal meetings, set it. If they are okay with informal ones, it is okay. Ensure you both are professional and not crossing organisation’s limit.

INTEREST AND POWER

As the old saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’. If you can keep the stakeholders engaged per their interest. It will work wonders for the project.

Behavioral science is quite subjective. And dealing with challenging stakeholders can be subjective too. In one of the studies Mendelow, A.L. has come up with a simple representation of Stakeholders power (as in the authority) and their way of scanning the environment. Researchers have further simplified this in terms of power and interest. as this:

Now let us see which stakeholder to focus on depending upon their power and interest in the project.

 

  • High power, highly interested people (Manage Closely): These are the people you should always satisfy. The stake of project depends mainly upon them. Project Manager could be one of them. Update them with minute details of the project progress. Set up regular meetings with them. Get their feedback for project’s interest. Few of the high-profile stakeholders like VP, Director also fall under this category. Although you should never over communicate but always be ready to send the summary of data, analysis and so on. You can ask them what further details they would need from you.
  • High power, less interested people (Keep Satisfied): These kind people should be satisfied. but they might not want to be bombarded with your detailed communications. These are the one who don’t want too many details. They want crisp updates of progress. Business Managers or many high-profile stakeholders and Sponsors are one them.
  • Low power, highly interested people (Keep Informed): People who are interested in the project execution even though not directly related to the project, may be because the project was initially their brain child or may be the technology involved in the project keeps them interested. You can keep these stakeholders in loop for all the progress. But don’t bother too much for them. as you might get too little from them for the effort and time you would have put in.
  • Low power, less interested people (Monitor): Keep monitoring these people. Again, don’t bother much for these stakeholders.

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