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Nobody puts stakeholder management in a corner

Michelle LaBrosse
July 25, 2013

The newest and best PMBOK Guide is out, and we are here to welcome the Fifth Edition with a huge bear hug. Call us nerdy, but we like this edition the best. Why? Because we think that stakeholder management has been put in a corner for far too long, and it is great to see it out in its own knowledge area, as it should be.

The introduction of Chapter 13, Project Stakeholder Management, as a new knowledge area is perhaps the most significant change between the 4th and 5th editions of the PMBOK Guide. While stakeholder management was present in the PMBOK Guide 4th edition (primarily in the Communications Management knowledge area), the significance of this addition is that it raises the importance of engaging stakeholders to the same level as all of the other project management knowledge areas. Lets go through the four processes to see why this addition is so important.

13.1 Identify Stakeholders
This process group focuses on identifying everyone affected by the work or the project outcomes. In the 4th edition, this lived in the Communications Management knowledge area.

13.2 Plan Stakeholder Management
This process group focuses on deciding how exactly you will engage with the stakeholders that you identified in the prior process. This is a brand new process, and is consistent with all of the new planning processes introduced in the 5th edition, which provides a detailed plan for each and every knowledge area.

13.3 Manage Stakeholder Engagement
This process details how you communicate with stakeholders and ensures appropriate engagement levels. In the 4th edition a similar process, ‘Manage Stakeholder Expectations’ lived in Communications Management.

13.4 Control Stakeholder Engagement
In this process we focus on monitoring the relationship with stakeholders and adjusting our communication as needed as requirements change. This new process has nothing comparable in the 4th edition, and is an important addition to note.

This added stress on stakeholder management is so important because effectively managing stakeholders is one of the hardest tasks in a project. This is because projects cause change, and people need to be prepared for those changes in order to accept them. The more you can involve stakeholders in a way that facilitates change and enhances the project’s objective, the better.

While we may know that stakeholder management is important intuitively, if we don’t have a concrete plan in how we will manager our stakeholders, our best intentions can fall to the wayside as other project priorities consume the team’s time and energy. This is why having a Stakeholder Management Plan (an output to Plan Stakeholder Management) is so important.

We have all heard the saying, “a project manager’s job is 90% communication”. That is right. And who are we communicating with? Stakeholders! And it makes sense, because practically everyone who touches or is affected by the project is a stakeholder.

Consider the 5 major types of stakeholders:

  1. Project manager
  2. Project team
  3. Sponsors
  4. Customers
  5. Functional management

And consider that within each of these broad groups, there are both internal (those directly affected by the projects, such as employees) and external (those not in the business but still have an interest in the project outcome, such as suppliers) stakeholders.

There are also primary (have major interest in success of a project, such as project sponsor) and secondary (assist with project completion, but have less of a stake in the projects success, such as legal counsel), stakeholders.

Then there are direct (concerned with day-to-day activities of the project, such as team members) and indirect (those concerned with just the finished product, such as your customers) stakeholders.

I think you get the picture. Pretty much anyone walking or breathing near your project is a stakeholder. They are important. And we would like to give the Project Management Institute a big high five for giving stakeholders the distinguished category that they deserve: their very own knowledge area.

Make sure to pick up the brand new PMBOK® Guide – Fifth Edition book. Happy stakeholder managing!

Co-authored by Kristen Medina

Michelle LaBrosse
Michelle LaBrosse (PMP) is one of the Project Management Institute's (PMI) 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World and the founder of Cheetah Learning, a former PMI Professional Development Provider of the Year. She boasts a background in engineering and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Managers (OPM) program, as well as a prolific writer and educator, having authored Cheetah Negotiations, Cheetah Project Management, Cheetah Know How and Cheetah Exam Prep as well as numerous articles in publications worldwide.
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One thought on “Nobody puts stakeholder management in a corner

  1. G’day Michelle
    I applaud the overall content and message of the article. However, there is a small observation. Does the customer/ client only rank at #4 in the list? Hmmm!


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