PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES – Project Planning Lessons Learned (Part 8)


Planning the project properly, documenting the plan professionally and then implementing the plan successfully are likely the sources of most project success and failure outcomes.  Using best practices and learning from the experiences of others are effective methods for skill set development.  Many organizations that use project management on an ongoing basis close out projects with a compilation of lessons learned. These firms have found value in studying the issues that have emerged in the past.

As part of the planning process, a review of relevant lessons learned can be instructive as well as a “sanity check” or completeness evaluation regarding the adequacy and comprehensive nature of your Project Management Plan.

This post continues the focus on issues in planning and problems that have their source or root cause in planning.  The subject is Stakeholder Management.

This post is the eighth in a Subject Series of discussions regarding current challenges being encountered in today’s project management.  More specifically, we have titled the series PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES, since we intend to focus heavily on the managerial aspects of program / project management.  This post addresses the Stakeholder Management lessons learned.

Sources that are used in this post are found in LinkedIn.

As discussed in Part 6 of this series, the use of team and stakeholder workshops can be an effective mechanism for achieving a well-developed Project Management Plan.  Start with the fundamentals and process.  Incorporate project initiation documentation.  Use lessons learned on similar projects.  Emphasize team participation.

The use of team and stakeholder workshops can be an effective mechanism for aligning, selling and implementing the Project Management Plan.  Obtain an audience with all stakeholders.  Start with the Project Sponsor.  Sell the Project Management Plan in detail.  Use the workshop to probe for disagreement or lack of support.  Obtain stakeholder buy-in for the plan.

One source of identification of challenges is industry discussions.  LinkedIn hosts Groups with widespread and diverse interests.  One such Group is Project Management Link – (membership required for access).

As previously posted, within this Group, there has been a very active discussion regarding this topic.  The discussion was initiated by Trevor K. Nelson, PMP, IPMA-C, on January 15, 2010, and has 1,700+ comments.  Here is the discussion question:

“What is the Single Biggest Problem Facing Project Management?”

As stated earlier, we will use some of the 1,700+ comments as points of departure for comments and discussion in this series.  In our next post, we will include some of the typical comments that pertain to the Planning Process.

This issue that will be unpacked is that of STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT.  As a starting point, here are some relevant LinkedIn comments.  The first is offered by Khurram Mateen:

“People – Stakeholder Management – Specifically stakeholders who have personal emotions and lack logic. As a project manager who is earlier stage of its project management experience, I face this problem in every project and as I got better creating better stakeholder management and communication strategy, things start to get much easier.”

Along the same line of commentary, the following is offered by Pramode Divakaran, MBA, PMP:

“The most common issue in adoption of Project Management as per standard is the creation of awareness for all the stakeholders included in a project. A Project Manager who is qualified or say who adopted the Project Management Standard finding it difficult to cascade the same awareness to all the stakeholders who is involved in a Business Strategy who especially deals with Application Development and Support”

In another LinkedIn discussion, Alan Grant writes:

“I would endorse Frank Saladis’ comment and Dr Wu’s as well. I would also note that the biggest failure in project management application I have experienced on several occasions is when PM’s focus on project management processes and/or products, at the expense of sufficient attention to stakeholder management. “

“Effective stakeholder management is always the key to success to avoid any kind of disconnect. On more than one occasion I have been called in to rescue a project that was “going off the rails” because the key stakeholders were not “on the same page” with a consistent expectation of the project outcomes that would represent success. You can build all sorts of documentation and process around the iron triangle of time/scope/cost, but if you don’t have all the key stakeholders in agreement as to the desired outcome that will represent success, you will fail (at least in some of their opinions!).”

The “take away” or lesson learned is that stakeholder management needs to start robustly during project planning.  Stakeholders need to be thoroughly identified, consulted, aligned, and a path forward needs to be documented during the planning process.  Using plan development process as well as the Project Management Plan [or Project Execution Plan, Project Plan] to align all stakeholders and to sell the plan is an effective means for dealing with this lesson learned.  Responsibility Matrices and RACI [Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform] diagrams are extremely useful in this process.  Experience has shown (please see above comments) that proceeding into project execution without a good plan for stakeholder management is very risky.  Take the time to complete the planning and Project Management Plan.

In subsequent posts, we will address additional issues or problems often encountered in Project Planning.  The notion here is that lessons learned from problems that have their roots in planning and Project Management Plan use are potentially helpful in improving the work of the project team.

Good luck in avoiding these and other project planning pitfalls.  Let us all attempt to approach the practice or managerial challenge of project management with all knowledge, tools and lessons learned that are available.  Setting a solid foundation in the issues as well as the process is essential and has long term (project duration) benefits.  Happy reading and good luck in your project management challenges and endeavors…


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