Managing stakeholder expectations is all about communicating the progress of your project through the implementation stage. If you communicated with them during the pre-planning and planning stages, key stakeholders and team members should both be aware of your project scope, the WBS, key performance indicators (KPI), and the deliverables of the project. If you have done your job and educated the stakeholders and your project team, managing expectations should be easy. Right?
As part of the pre-planning process you should have defined who your stakeholders are when you formatted your stakeholder register and formulated your stakeholder management strategy. You should have created a schedule of when you would be communicating project progress and change requests to your key stakeholders. If you are following that schedule, you should regularly update that team using the methodology you identified — emails, conference calls, Skype, or reports during meetings. As the project manager, this is the way you hope your project progresses.
But here in the real world, challenges will come up. Meetings will get cancelled, your boss’s boss will want updates before a scheduled communication is due, or people just won’t take the time to read your update emails. It happens. This should be one of the risks you identify as part of the planning process. To mitigate these issues, you should also get sign-off by the key stakeholders on the communication plan and corresponding schedules.
In my experience, these are all issues that can be dealt with quickly with a phone call or email. But what about when you are in the middle of project implementation and there is a personnel change within the key stakeholders? What happens if that new person wants you to change a work package or even modify the scope of the project? Depending on the level of the person and if they ultimately are the decision-maker for the project, you may have to make some changes. That is where the issue log and change requests come in.
The issues log is a registry of the challenges and issues that have come up during the implementation process. You also use this log to track the resolution of stakeholder concerns. These issues should be assigned to a team member and the resolution of the concern should be assigned a due date. While working with key stakeholders should be your responsibility, many times it is important to involve members of your team in the communication of the resolution to the stakeholder.
If a change is proposed to the project scope or work packages, you will need to approve those changes through a pre-determined committee. Most of the time, I will include a member of the implementation team, myself, the stakeholder who is the ultimate decision-maker, and the stakeholder who suggested the change in a conversation where the impact of the modification on project schedule, budget, and outcome will be included in the conversation. Any approved changes will be entered into the change log that is designed to keep stakeholders updated on project changes and their impact on the project. Even changes that are designed to save time can lead to project delays.
As your project implementation progresses, you will have changes. You will have challenges. You will have issues. As the project manager it is your job to communicate constantly with the project stakeholders and your project team. I have found a quick phone call to someone who I know has a concern about the project can resolve any issues 90% of the time. When an issue does come up, I like to use the project scope statement to remind them of the deliverables the project was designed to produce. Keeping your project on time and within budget is always helpful too.