When stakeholders, whether they are IT staff, CXOs, or end users, play an active role in project execution they need to receive the right information at the right time. This may seem intuitive, but properly communicating essential aspects of a project with key stakeholders before and during execution often falls through the cracks. Valuable information often bypasses the people who need it the most, creating knowledge gaps that subsequently impact project delivery, stakeholder relations and client satisfaction. After all, project agility and quality deliverables depend on the timeliness, clarity, and nature of messages sent and received.
Below are three key things every project manager must share with stakeholders to guarantee a project's success.
1. Project drivers, purpose, and goals
Stakeholders may understand their specific assigned tasks, but do they understand how their role impacts the entire project? Stakeholders need to see the bigger picture. To do that, project managers should clearly communicate the project drivers, purpose, and end goals.
Sharing details about what prompted the project, how it helps the organization, and the intended outcome helps stakeholders better understand the project's significance. Explaining how individual roles support wider goals establishes a greater sense of project buy-in, beyond assigned tasks. Having this greater awareness creates a stronger connection for the overall outcome of the project.
2. Precise role and expectations
Once stakeholders recognize the bigger picture behind the project, project managers must identify, document, and communicate each stakeholders' precise role and tasks.
Expecting a stakeholder to fulfil their obligations without having detailed job requirements and expectations is not only unfair to the stakeholder but to the entire project team who depends on the deliverables from that stakeholder.
Remember to make sure that there are established channels available for two-way feedback. Stakeholders must be able to ask questions, share ideas and concerns, and have a chance to notify the team at any point of anything that may impact a project.
Also, ensure there is sufficient documentation available about the project, tasks, timelines, available resources, protocols around changes, potential risks, and any other factors that may impact their role.
3. How participation is measured
Once a stakeholder knows their role and how it impacts the project, they should understand how their performance will be measured.
Stakeholder goals should be simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T). Every goal must be measurable, otherwise performance cannot be accurately quantified. The goal also must be achievable in order to be fair to the stakeholder or useful to the project. The goal should also be realistic (in a 'real world' context, not in a 'ideal project plan' context). Finally, the goal needs to be time-based, with a clear deadline and timeframe so it can link into other goals that are dependent upon it.
Communicating projects drivers, purpose, goals, expectations, and performance indicators increases the likelihood that stakeholders will become fully vested in a project and have a higher degree of accountability in the outcome.
Remember, it's much more effective to spend extra time and effort with the stakeholder at the beginning of a project rather than trying to fix problems that result from misunderstandings and missed deadlines down the line.
Moira Alexander is the author of "LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership" and Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications, and a contributor and co-host of the "technically speaking" segment on the Price of Business Talk Radio. She has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada. To find out more about Moira, go to www.leadhershipgroup.com.