There are lots of challenges taking on a new job, getting up to speed quickly, putting your stamp on your group and contributing effectively to the larger organization. Often, with that new job comes essential involvement in an in progress change initiative. Your new role could be as sponsor, target, change agent or champion. Regardless, it’s an added responsibility that needs to be accommodated in your already busy calendar.
In my last post, we looked at what project stakeholders needed to do to deal with a change in their stakeholder group. In this post we’ll look at what you need to do as a new stakeholder to get up to speed quickly and help the project succeed. The three steps below are somewhat of a mirror image to the previous post but in this case, you’re managing the process. If the other stakeholders involved have read my previous post and are carrying out those four steps, so much the better.
Here’s your road map for getting up to speed quickly:
1. Identify the Stakeholders and Their Roles
You need to know who the other project decision makers are and what roles they’re playing – sponsor, target, change agent or champion. That includes you! The easiest way to find out is to ask the other stakeholders. You want to see consistency in the responses. If not, make a note to follow-up. Also, do some digging on your own: Who was responsible for launching the project? Who does the organization look to to deliver the change successfully? Which departments and which staff will be affected by the change? Are those groups represented in the stakeholder group? If you find issues or gaps in your digging, make a note to follow-up.
This step is absolutely critical to get you up to speed quickly and contributing effectively but it’s often overlooked. An example: a colleague of mine recently joined a project as a contract project manager. It involved the launch of a new financial product with a boat load of web development. She jumped into the project with both feet in response to some critical target dates. And then she ran into a number of conflicts. The VP of System Development, her boss, explained that he was the project sponsor and proceeded to dictate direction, which was at odds with business expectations. The resource manager with whom she dealt to obtain project staff, issued orders regarding the functionality, look and feel of the application, again at odds with the business direction..
The project manager took a deep breath and stepped back. She asked the individuals involved who they thought the stakeholders were and what roles they were playing. She found considerable disagreement and pursued the issues until there was unanimity. As a result of her questioning, a number of changes were made to the makeup of the stakeholder group. The business VP responsible for the product launch became the sponsor. The System Development VP had no formal stakeholder role, nor did the resource manager. Two organizations affected by the project were not initially represented in the stakeholder group. Senior managers were appointed to fulfill their target roles. According to the project manager, once the stakeholder group was reformed, the difference in clarity on goals and directions, in the speed of decision making and the level of stakeholder commitment was palpable.
2. Review Decision Area Status
Now that you have a stakeholder group that covers all the bases, the next step is to discover what decisions have been made and agreed to and what decisions have yet to be addressed. The easiest way to cover this is through the use of a tool like the Project Pre-Check Diagnostic process. It uses as standard questionnaire covering the Decision Framework and ascertains the level of understanding and agreement for each stakeholder on each decision area. It can be completed in one on one or group discussions and cover all or a subset of the 125 Project Pre-Check decision areas.
It doesn’t matter what role you, the newcomer, are playing. It’s as appropriate for a sponsor as it is for a change agent, target or champion. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that will give you, as well as the other stakeholders, insights into gaps that need to be addressed and differences of opinion that need to be resolved. Also, it will give you access to the information sources that support the decisions made to allow you to bring your level of knowledge and understanding up to the level of the other stakeholders. No doubt, the other stakeholders will be impressed!
3. Operate As a Full Member of the Stakeholder Group
Once the stakeholder group has been formed and the status and level of agreement on the required decisions have been established, all that’s left is to join with the other stakeholders to deliver the project successfully. That includes resolving areas of stakeholder disagreement, tackling gaps that need attention and monitoring the impact on decisions already made as changes in scope and plan are approved over time. Here the results from the decision area assessment can serve as an ongoing scorecard to track decisions made and levels of stakeholder agreement.
As the new player in the stakeholder group, you can take pride in your contributions, confirming the stakeholder group makeup or reshaping as needed, identifying the level of agreement with decisions made and determining areas needing attention. Not bad for a newcomer!
Drew Davison is the owner and principal consultant at Davison Consulting and a former system development executive. He is the developer of Project Pre-Check, an innovative framework for launching projects and guiding successful project delivery, the author of Project Pre-Check – The Stakeholder Practice for Successful Business and Technology Change and Project Pre-Check FastPath – The Project Manager’s Guide to Stakeholder Management. He works with organizations that are undergoing major business and technology change to implement the empowered stakeholder groups critical to project success.