Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Getting Buy-In: How to Improve Stakeholder Engagement and Clarity About Your Project

Getting Buy-In: How to Improve Stakeholder Engagement and Clarity About Your Project

Many people are involved in the decision-making aspect of project development, and honestly, it's hard to please everyone. The pressure is on to get buy-in from everyone, including partners, vendors, and even customers. However, one of the most critical individuals to get on your team are people that have a direct tie to your project.

These can be sponsors, team members, and even executive leadership teams who decide whether the project moves forward or not. It can be challenging to get these individuals on the same page.

However, the sooner they understand what you are doing, the easier it will be to get started on your project. So, how can you improve their understanding and engagement of your project? Here are some tips to help you better include and communicate with critical stakeholders.

Determine Who All These Individuals Are—Create a List

You may have an idea of all the people who are impacted by your project, but it doesn't hurt to explicitly identify who these people are and create a plan to engage with them. Understanding who your primary, secondary, key, and active stakeholders are will allow you to see the impact each one has on your project and vice versa.

Let's say that while your vendors may have a critical role in helping to produce deliverables, members of executive leadership are actually the ones who will determine whether you can move forward or not. This makes those individuals more of a priority to reach out to and engage with.

You will also need to determine their motivations to appeal to them specifically. So, take some time to sit down with your team and start to identify each person who has a stake in your project. Also, list what the stake is. From there, you can plan how to involve them in the decision-making process.

Find Out About Their Motivations

What are the main things each stakeholder group is concerned about? This information is the key to building on the right strategy to reach them. For example, sponsors are likely more worried about the monetary side of things. This means that you need to speak their language on this issue: what's the cost, and how will you help them profit from it? These discussions may include ROI calculations and projections.

Other professionals like board members may be concerned with cost, but they will also likely care about how the project impacts the reputation of the company. Therefore, you need to talk with them about things like corporate social responsibility and how you ensure the deliverable embodies the company's mission and vision.

They can also give insight into the organization's priorities and motivations. Thirty-nine percent of projects fail due to a change in organizational priorities. Internal stakeholders can guide you to avoid this. So, make a point to speak with each stakeholder group to determine what their motivations are and how you can address them.

Be Honest About Challenges

Project management isn't easy by a long shot. From communication issues to scope creep, a lot can happen that can derail a project. Your stakeholders know this and may have already noticed some problems that could threaten their support. You want to be as transparent and honest about the challenges and how you plan to fix them.

Stakeholders want to know that they can trust you with their contribution. If they see that you are already thinking about what could go wrong—or addressing things that have happened in the past—they may be more likely to trust you now. Also, don't hesitate to ask about their insights. They may have some suggestions that can help. Show them that you value their opinion and will take to heart what they are saying.

Plan for Consistent Check-Ins

You don't want to bombard their schedules, but you do want to gain their insight into the process as soon as possible. Therefore, you want to plan to have consistent meetings with them. The goal is to update them on project processes and get the temperature of how they feel about how things are going. The sooner you communicate project progress to them, and they see that things are moving smoothly, the greater time you will have to engage them.

Also, make a point to be creative. You can make your mark by presenting information in a visually engaging way. For example, let's say that you are working on a project that involves computer-aided design. Instead of showing off a product's physical mode in a traditional way, you could display it with augmented reality or virtual reality technology. Again, you want to do what works for you and your stakeholders, but don't be afraid to make the conversations more engaging by being creative.

Make Project Goals Clear

Don't just assume that your stakeholders understand the purpose of the project. It's important to make the goals clear. You want to convey what you are doing and the benefit it serves for the client. However, you also want to discover and showcase how it aligns with the company's overall goals.

Again, you want to ensure you understand each stakeholder's concerns and motivations so you can speak to them. Therefore, work to connect their motivations to the goals your project is meant to meet. Regardless of the conversations, you all have, you want to bring everything back to the project goals. Talk about them as often as you can, and make a point to align them with the business goals. According to PMI, a lack of clear objectives and milestones to measure progress is a primary cause of project failure. Therefore, be sure to involve stakeholders in the process of creating clear goals.

Stakeholder Buy-In Is Possible With Some Forethought

The job of a project manager isn't easy. It is no walk in the park to have to convince multiple entities to buy into what you are doing. That's why it is crucial to have a gameplan for how you will engage these individuals. Know who each group is, discover their motivations, and invest in a plan to interact with them to discuss how you can make them a part of your project.

They will appreciate the fact that you value their opinion and contributions. Allowing them time to ask questions and making it easy for them to seek and find the information they need about your project will be a significant benefit to you both. The more engaged they are, the easier it will be to attain their support.

For more information on this topic, check out PMI's excellent guide for excelling at Stakeholder Management.


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