Tips for Identifying & Managing Project Stakeholders
If you’ve ever managed a project, you know that key stakeholders can make or break your success.
Meeting the expectations of a single quality management stakeholder can be a job on its own, beyond all the other elements needed to make your project successful. Unfortunately, it’s rare to have only one stakeholder when you’re leading a project. It’s more likely that you’ll have several quality management stakeholders, both internal and external — from your CEO to the customer — invested in the outcome of your project.
Every added stakeholder makes your project more complex. That’s why it’s important to create a stakeholder management strategy that helps you understand and manage each stakeholder relationship, so you can effectively keep your project on target, manage expectations, and maximize your chances for success.
The first step in building a holistic stakeholder management strategy is identifying quality management stakeholders and understanding the key differences between them. This article identifies and defines internal and external project stakeholder types and offers a few tips on how to manage each one.
Note: Depending on the size and structure of your company, quality management stakeholder types may partially or completely overlap, so be sure to adjust your stakeholder management strategy to best suit your business.
Internal Quality Management Stakeholders
1. Top Management
Top management stakeholders include anyone who’s responsible for the strategy and development of your organization — from c-suite executives to department directors. Reporting to these quality management stakeholders is often highly visible, which means failed projects will also be highly visible. Additionally, these stakeholders can make or break a project based on their buy-in and commitment.
Here are a few tips for managing top management stakeholders:
- Develop detailed project plans for top management to review and approve
- Update top-level leaders when big roadblocks threaten to affect your timeline or projected outcomes
- Ask every top management stakeholder what reports they’ll need and how often you should give updates
- Put a reporting process for top management in place and stick to a standard delivery schedule
2. Direct Manager
It goes without saying that your boss dictates what your projects are and what resources are available to you in much more detail than top management. That’s why it’s essential to keep communication open and visibility high with your direct manager, so you can manage expectations and build a case for more resources as needed.
Here are a few tips for influencing your direct manager:
- Have detailed discussions about his or her expectations as well as how your performance will be measured, then document goals and timelines around those discussions
- Set regular meetings to keep your direct manager informed about project progress and challenges you encounter along the way. Make sure to bring up anything that needs direction or clarification.
- Put a reporting process for your direct manager in place and stick to a regular reporting cadence
3. Internal Customers
An internal customer can be anyone in your organization that will have final sign-off on your quality management project. Keep in mind that while you need to get buy-in and support from top management and your direct manager, they may not be the “customer” you’re serving. It’s critical to obtain as many details as possible from the internal customer and then negotiate realistic deliverables and timelines based on your resources.
Here are a few tips for managing internal customers:
- Create a detailed project brief or worksheet that helps internal customers provide the details you need to complete the project to everyone’s satisfaction
- Document every requirement and specification, then use that documentation as a written agreement for the project, and include signatures from both parties
- Include change procedures in the agreement to better negotiate requested changes to any part of the project scope or deliverables
- Understand the team culture of your internal customer and “speak their language” in your communications
- Establish that you’re the main point of contact for the project, not your team members, to keep communication clean and clear
4. Project Team
A quality management project team includes anyone who’s assigned to your project on a full- or part-time basis. This can include people from your department, borrowed members from other departments, interns, and more. They will be looking to you as a leader to communicate the value of the project, to clearly define their roles and tasks, and to support and motivate them in these efforts when needed. It’s important to create a culture of collaboration in order to support, learn, and problem-solve together.
Here are a few tips for managing your project team:
- Involve your team in the planning process to increase project buy-in and encourage members to volunteer for responsibilities that best match their strengths
- Clearly define and document the responsibilities of each team member, including relevant deadlines
- Establish that you’re available to team members whenever needed
- Set regular, short team meetings to celebrate success and solve problems
- Schedule conversational one-on-one meetings to both build rapport and address anything the team member may not want to share with the group
- Act early and decisively when you discover personality conflicts, value clashes, or other team culture challenges
5. Company Peers
Your peers include anyone who’s at the same level as you in the company, which could include a vast number of people, depending on the size of your organization. The specific peers you need to consider may be assigned to your project team or otherwise be invested in the success of your quality management project. Either way, they do not hold a leadership role in your project, nor do they have any accountability for its success. Managing peers may be highly political and hampered by personality conflicts, disparate instructions from your respective managers, or even envy that you’re the project lead instead of them.
Here are a few tips for managing company peers:
- Ask top management to make project roles clear to all project team members and emphasize that cooperation is expected from all parties
- Clearly define (and repeat often) project expectations and goals
- Have regular meetings to discuss the progress of each invested peer
- Act early if it’s clear that a peer is hampering the project in any way, such as being uncooperative or choosing gossip and bad-mouthing over moving the project forward
6. Internal Resource Managers
Aside from peers, there may be others within your organization that control resources you need, from data analysts and subject-matter experts to equipment managers and technology administrators. Fostering goodwill to build a solid working relationship with any coworker is always a good idea, but it’s a critical necessity when it comes to tackling quality management projects.
Here are a few tips for managing internal resource managers:
- Ask for access to resources for your project as soon as you know you need them. This gives resource managers enough lead time to plan and adjust schedules for other projects that require the same resources.
- Listen actively and show compassion about their workload and challenges to help foster goodwill and encourage collaboration
- Be clear and firm when communicating what you need for your project, but try to remain flexible and willing to compromise as needed
External Quality Management Stakeholders
7. Governing & Standards Bodies
If your industry is regulated in any way, you must follow specific laws, rules, and requirements to ensure your projects meet quality, safety, and compliance standards. Even if your business isn’t tightly regulated, there are likely industry best practices that help your company stay certified, relevant, and competitive in your market.
Here are high-level tips for managing the requirements of governing and standards bodies:
- Resist cutting corners, especially when it may affect the quality and safety of the product or services you deliver to external customers
- Take the time to properly document, update, and internally communicate any change to your processes. This ensures that everyone is on the same page, and it solidifies company goals and values. Additionally, if you’ve documented procedural changes,you’re more likely to be prepared (instead of scrambling) when any internal or external audit, inspection, or assessment occurs
8. Suppliers, Vendors & Contractors
When internal resources can’t cover your needs, you will need to hire outside help. Depending on your project, this could be anything from consulting with an industry expert to hiring a graphic designer. Keep in mind: No matter how well you communicate with external resources, the risks are higher when it comes to managing work quality, staying within budget, and meeting critical deadlines.
Here are tips for managing project suppliers, vendors, and contractors:
- Document every requirement and deliverable in the signed contract; never rely on spoken promises or goodwill
- Schedule frequent meetings to check on their progress
- Make it clear that you need to hear about any roadblocks or issues as soon as they arise, so you can help keep the project on track.
- Refer also to the tips for managing peers and internal resource managers above.
9. External Customers
Last, but certainly not least, are external customers. These are the people that will ultimately be consuming your company’s product or services. External customers are arguably the most important stakeholder for you and your business. Avoiding bad press, creating positive experiences through safe and quality products, increasing customer retention, and gaining new customers are all examples of success that drives revenue.
Here are a few tips for managing external customers:
- Always keep your customer in mind when managing a quality management project
- Remind other internal stakeholders about customer needs when planning and negotiating project details
- Remember that successfully managing your quality management projects and all internal stakeholders is what helps you keep brand promises to your customers
With careful consideration, you can create a plan that helps your quality management stakeholders stay appropriately involved and invested in your project, which helps you keep it running smoothly while increasing your chances of success.
Learn more about creating an effective stakeholder management strategy in this article: Every Quality Professional Needs a Stakeholder Management Strategy.
RizePoint offers quality management software that empowers quality leaders to collect, organize, and manage data around their quality assurance and supplier quality management programs, so they can deliver consistent, safe, and quality products and services. Click here to learn more today.