MANAGING STAKEHOLDER EXPECTATIONS
A Stakeholder is anyone who has something to gain or something to lose by your project. Stakeholders include clients, team members, financiers, regulators and many others. Managing Stakeholder expectations is one of the biggest keys to project success!
To manage Stakeholder expectations, you first need to know those expectations. Stakeholders, left to their own imaginations will create illusions of what the end project should be like, and how it should be managed. And NOTE THIS: Stakeholder expectations might be mutually exclusive and/or impossible for you to satisfy!
As Project Manager it is important for you to manage your Stakeholders' expectations. This is done by comparing what is expected to what your project can deliver; and when necessary bringing those expectations into line with what, in reality, can be done. (The Stakeholder Register helps you capture Stakeholder expectations). Sometimes when you know your Stakeholders' expectations you can make adjustments to meet those expectations. Here's the problem: if your project cannot deliver what is expected there will be Stakeholder disappointment and frustration. Disappointment and frustration live in the space (the gap) between what is expected and what actually happens.
It is your job then, as Project Manager, to manage the expectations of your Stakeholders. You do this by clearly articulating what the project can, and cannot, deliver. If your project cannot deliver all expectations, Stakeholders should know the reason why so the output can be more favorably accepted. By careful communication and explanation, you will close any gap between what is expected and what will be done. That gap, left unresolved, is the area of discontentment, dissatisfaction, disappointment, and frustration with your project and ultimately with you as PM.
Your initiating documents such as the Business Case and the Project Charter provide reference points to remind Stakeholders what the project will and will not do. Documenting all Stakeholder meetings and agreements reached will also help you keep moving forward.
One very important way to manage Stakeholder expectations is to get your Stakeholders involved. We call this Stakeholder engagement. People like to be asked for help. And some of your Stakeholders can really help your project if you just ask.
When Stakeholders are engaged you get their valuable input, and they are much more likely to buy-in to decisions made. This is a key to project success!
You will want some stakeholders to be engaged as participants with responsibility for completing some tasks. Still other Stakeholders will be held accountable for certain tasks. You may have some Stakeholders with special information; you will consult with these. Some Stakeholders will just want to be kept informed. A RACI matrix is very useful to organize these roles.
REMEMBER, how well you manage Stakeholder Engagement will pave the way to meeting Stakeholder expectations.