Last month we reviewed John Brinkworth's book Bridging the Business Project Divide. Assuming that we have now crossed that chasm, this month we are taking a look at Jake, David, and Roger's book: A Practical Guide to Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders, people who, we might add, are to be found on both sides of that "Divide" referred to in our previous paper. So who are these people?
The authors, Jake, David, and Roger, caution that:
"There are many different types of people, or Stakeholders, involved in your project; which in this book is always the Project. These include Sponsors and other senior managers, the project Team and internal or external Customers not to mention other groups or individual Gatekeepers within your organization, such as operations, finance and project or service management process owners.
All of them have different needs, objectives, responsibilities and priorities. Indeed, your project will not necessarily be at the very top of their agenda. It is a disturbing realization that, for any number of personal or professional reasons, some of them may not be as cooperative and helpful as you want or even want your project to succeed. The reality of project management is that Stakeholders can be difficult." (Emphasis added.)
However, the authors justify their work by observing:
"Stakeholders can have a massive impact on the success, both real and perceived, of the Project. [So] the focus of our analysis is as much informed by social psychology as by pragmatic project management experience. It provides a way forward for dealing with unhelpful or difficult stakeholder behavior and it charts a path to achieve the best outcome for your project."
"[T]his book offers insights, tips and techniques designed to help you through the difficulties you may encounter."
To reassure its readers, at the conclusion of their Preface the authors assert:
"Our ideas are not new or untried we have drawn heavily not just on our experience of involvement in hundreds of projects but on theories and research from social psychology that illustrate how and why people behave as they do."
In case you are wondering, the term "Stakeholder" is, for purposes of the book, defined as:
"[A]ny person or group who can impact the cost, schedule, specification, resourcing, outcome or perceived success of a Project." (Emphasis added.)
In other words, anyone and everyone who has anything to do with the product of the project however remote they may be.
In the authors' definition, we have emphasized the label "perceived success" because this is central throughout the book. In other words, "on time" and "under budget" and all those kinds of classic criteria promulgated by the standard technical literature and their advocates, is not what this book is about. It's what people think about the product, when it is in use at the end of the project that is really important.
Who is the book for? It is difficult to think of a project without stakeholders, let alone what their motivations may be. However, the more stakeholders there are, the greater the challenge is for the project manager and project teams to manage the project. It is probably reasonable to say that, by and large, information technology projects have the most stakeholders, and that assumption would be underscored by the backgrounds of the authors.
1. Holloway, Jake; David Bryde; & Roger Joby, A Practical Guide to Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders, Gower Publishing Limited, printed in the UK by Henry Ling Limited, at the Dorset Press, Dorchester, 2015, p xi.
4. Ibid, pp. xi-xii
5. Ibid, p1
6. We are tempted to add here that these days when the piling up of massive debt at all levels of government is so pervasive and popular, who cares if we run over budget? But then we are straying into real politics.