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Is irrefutable governance possible?

Adeline Teoh ed.
March 31, 2016

Government backdowns are nothing new but how can those in charge run a country without capitulating to stakeholder interference at every turn?

Imagine you are in charge of a project with a decent team but some unruly stakeholders involved. The client needs to sign off on the budget before you go ahead with the project but there are a few snags.

Because of the unruly stakeholders, the client can’t agree on what it wants. You’ve come through with some ideas and there is some enthusiastic support at the fringe but the main body of stakeholders is not convinced. Yes, that’s right, you’re the Australian Government trying to sell the 2016 Budget to voters.

Here’s my take on how to avoid trial by stakeholders:

1. Consider all stakeholders. Governments make the mistake of focusing on voters without considering others who might be affected by their decisions, for example children or entities such as businesses and charities. Projects are similar: there may be many indirect stakeholders on whom your project has a great impact.

2. Listen to stakeholders… The loudest ones are often not the most powerful ones and sometimes the powerful ones are not the ones you should be listening to. Take some time to decipher their respective agendas before making a decision.

3. Ensure there is rigour in the business case. Once you clearly define what you are doing and why, it makes it harder for others to refute.

4. …but don’t let stakeholders dictate everything you do. Made a decision? You need the right people to endorse it. After that, as they say in prize draws and competitions, ‘no correspondence may be entered into’. Use the reasons outlined in the business case as support.

5. Sell business case properly. A good project manager secures buy-in as early as possible, which involves selling the business case to stakeholders. Don’t forget that different stakeholders need different kinds of information.

Is irrefutable governance possible? In a democracy—where a government is a government and not a bunch of politicians—governance shouldn’t be completely irrefutable, but it depends on your level of authority in a project. How do you handle trial by stakeholder?

Author avatar
Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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