With today’s complex project environment, Project managers must be open to learning the skills of trusted advisors if they want to know their stakeholders better. Trust is a critical element that helps build long-term relationships with our stakeholders. With trust, leaders can improve the work process and communicate effectively with stakeholders involved in the project. For instance, project managers constantly communicate with their teams and stakeholders to ensure their projects are on track. Still, they often need help managing the project’s schedule, risk, and stakeholder requirements. Getting along with the team and customer in the early stages of the project, understanding customer needs, and building trust can drastically reduce the project’s stakeholder conflicts.  In this month’s ATS Seminar, our Speaker, Grace Wu, presented the traits of trusted advisors and how PMs can benefit by acting as trusted advisors for their projects and contributing to their project success.

During the Advance topic Seminar, Grace discussed the importance of a trusted advisor and the steps to becoming a trusted advisor. She shared the five essential steps for effective stakeholder management and the soft skills we need to be a trusted advisor. The Seminar also included group exercises that helped the participants identify stakeholder interests and influence on the project.

Advanced Topics Seminar Speaker - Grace Wu
Advanced Topics Seminar Speaker – Grace Wu
Speaker Bio

Our Guest speaker for this month’s Advance topic seminar is Grace Wu. She is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and Certified Change Consultant.

As per Grace, Trusted Advisors help in stakeholder alignment & support project needs. With trusted advisors, the project can be completed faster with quick feedback and conflict resolution. Organizations can also benefit from trusted advisors as they act with urgency, see the big picture, and strategically engage with stakeholders to deliver results, help in customer retention, build customer loyalty, increase sales, and better long-term relations.  Trusted advisors focus on building relations with the client and are often several steps ahead to offer solutions to the customer-centric client. To become a trusted advisor, an individual need to communicate effectively with his stakeholders.

3-Step to Become a Trusted Advisor
Source: Contributed by Grace Wu

A trusted advisor needs to communicate with stakeholders at every project stage. Stakeholders keep changing throughout the life cycle of the project. Also, stakeholders will have different degrees of interest and influence in the project. Speaker Grace presented detailed examples of the 5 step process of effectively engaging and managing stakeholders.

5-Step Process - Effectively Engage & Manage Stakeholders
Source: Contributed by Grace Wu

The steps for effective stakeholder management are as follows:

Step 1. Identify the stakeholder.

There are two types of stakeholders in the project, mainly internal and external. The organization’s internal stakeholders include employees, owners, the board of directors, project managers, investors, and more. The internal stakeholders are directly impacted by the project.

External stakeholders are outside the organization and indirectly impacted by the project. These people can be suppliers, customers, creditors, clients, competitors, or the government.

Step 2. Analyzing the stakeholder.

We need to know about the key stakeholders, their expectations, interest, and influence on the project for effective communication with the stakeholder. We must consider the project’s benefits, how stakeholders measure success and their preferred communication method for project updates. A tool like a stakeholder analysis sheet can help to analyze the stakeholder’s needs, interests, and influence in a project.

Identifying stakeholders is part of conducting the stakeholder analysis. It can be strategically valuable when you kick up your project right, so the more stakeholders you can identify earlier on, the more you can tailor your communication. You know how to work with them, win their approval, and get them to support you.

Stakeholder Analysis Sheet
Stakeholder Analysis Sheet

Step 3. Plan the stakeholder.

Mapping stakeholders can become very useful for trusted advisors as they analyze the stakeholder’s power /influence in the project and stakeholders’ needs and interests. Based on the level of influence in the project, trusted advisors can also know if the stakeholder’s presence will positively or negatively impact the project’s progress. Through stakeholder maps, we can know who are your key stakeholders and what their expectations are. Everybody may have different expectations, so knowing their interests in the project becomes essential.

The four categories in mapping stakeholders are as follows:

1. High power /influence and high-interest/ needs

2. High power/influence, low interest/needs

 3. Low power/ influence, low interest/needs

4. Low power /influence and high interest/needs

Mapping Stakeholders
Mapping Stakeholders

You can gather this information about the stakeholders through direct conversations, surveys, interviews, and talking to your teammates about their interactions with the stakeholder. This process of gathering information about the stakeholders can start even before the execution of the project. Preparing yourself by analyzing the stakeholder makes you prepared for a strategic approach to communication. Knowing your stakeholder helps in gaining building a realistic plan with your stakeholder. Sometimes Highly influenced stakeholders with less interest in the project, instead of actively participating, prefer to monitor the project’s progress. We should take special care of the stakeholders with significant influence and high interest in the project, as they are the key stakeholders. We must manage those stakeholders closely, as their inputs can impact the project. Also, some stakeholders have low influence and interest in the project; detailed project discussions will be optional for such stakeholders. There can be instances where the stakeholder analysis sheet for the same stakeholder will be different for different managers/ trusted advisors, as the role of the stakeholder could be different for different projects. Each manager/ trusted advisor must analyze the stakeholder by understanding their role in the project.

Once you map your stakeholder based on their power and interest in the project, communication can be created. The communication could be in a verbal, written, or virtual meeting format. It could be one-on-one communication with stakeholders or a workshop. The communication plan aims to properly use stakeholders’ time, engage them in the project, and deliver the message to the stakeholders. To create a good communication plan, you need soft skills like leadership, problem-solving, time management, and critical thinking skills to support and make the communication plan successful.

Step 4. Engage the stakeholder.

The next step is engaging the stakeholder, as engaging the stakeholders helps to Identify & address issues/conflicts early on in the project, and we can have fewer conflicts. When the stakeholders are engaged in the project, alignment on the requirements can be maintained, and everyone involved will be on the same page. There would be fewer change orders and disagreements.

Step 5. Adjust the stakeholder.

Adjusting the stakeholder needs is an ongoing process. It starts at the early stage of the project, and adjustments are made in the communication plan based on the inputs and evaluations made during the different project stages. Feedback is critical for making adjustments to the communication plan. Another reason to make adjustments is that stakeholders’ power and expectations in the project can change as the project gets completed, and sometimes stakeholders also change during the project, so it becomes essential to adjust your stakeholder management and communication strategy.

The Session ended with a case study discussion and real-life examples among the participants about stakeholder analysis and its role in project completion.

Content Contributor & SEO Coordinator
This post was contributed by Megha Bhalwalkar
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