Getting and Keeping Stakeholders on Your Side
[Phase One] How to Run a Smooth-sailing Cross-departmental Project
Imagine: You have been asked to lead a project which involves almost every department and it all goes smoothly - everyone understands what they should be doing, tasks get done on time, and the project is a huge success.
Isn’t that the dream?
In reality, projects often come with lots of hurdles, especially around communication with stakeholders.
In today’s article, we begin to reveal how you can run a smooth-sailing cross-departmental project, starting with the initiation phase.
09:00 am Monday: The Dreaded Request
It’s 09:00 am on a Monday morning and you have just got to the office with the same grande caramel frappuccino with two shots of hazelnut syrup that you’ve been getting every morning for longer than you can remember, along with a piping-hot breakfast bagel. You’re 30 mins early, you don’t start until 09:30 am, so you can’t wait to sit at your desk, enjoy your breakfast in peace, and mentally prepare yourself for the week ahead. You walk through the door to your office and just as you’re about to sit down and tuck in, the Managing Director comes rushing into the room, talking to you at a million miles an hour about some new project that he needs you to lead. Instantly, you’re filled with dread - you hate leading projects because they’re complex and you find yourself spending the majority of your day getting frustrated that things aren’t going as planned.
“Maybe this time will be different…” you think to yourself - and you’re right.
09:15 am Monday: Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite
The project that you’ve been asked to lead is to redesign the current performance monitoring process, moving from annual appraisals to monthly performance catch-ups, because the MD isn’t happy with employees’ current level of performance. The project is going to involve almost every department and more stakeholders than you can count. Where do you even begin...?
You begin outlining the purpose of the project, the timescale, and how it affects each individual department but soon, you realise that this is going to be even harder than you thought. Your first draft, honest and to the point, looks like this:
You read it back and sigh. “This needs serious improvement” you think to yourself. You know that if you introduce the project to stakeholders like this, you may as well pack up your desk now and get looking on Indeed. The challenge is to paint a very complex project that is going to require more work from people in a way that excites and motivates them - rather than in a way that makes them want to quit and get out while they can!
This is your first hurdle, getting stakeholders’ buy-in, so how do you overcome it?
You put yourself in the mind of your stakeholders - what do they want to hear? Simple - they want to know what’s in it for them. You realise that you should be focusing on the different types of stakeholders rather than individual departments, and that you should be talking about the long term benefits rather than the immediate impact.
You spend the rest of the morning editing and rewriting what should have been a simple one-page document and after 3 hours, 2 cups of coffee, the temptation to hand in your resignation, and pressing Ctrl + A and Delete so many times that your fingers get cramp, it’s finished! You finally have a project initiation outline! By this time, you’ve completely forgotten about the now-soggy breakfast bagel in the bottom of your bin that you’d been so excited to eat.
You feel a weight lifting off your shoulders as you click ‘save’. You are now ready to present this to your stakeholders.
Writing your project initiation outline in a stakeholder-centric way is key to getting them on your side and forming a good relationship; this skill is not only vital for leading projects, but for all leaders and managers.
Stakeholder Relationships Suffering in Your Organisation?
If you or any of your employees are responsible for leading cross-departmental projects or work with stakeholders in some way, our Level 5 Operational Manager apprenticeship would be perfect.
This programme is made up of 8 modules, including Building Stakeholder Relationships which looks at:
- Exploring the benefits and challenges to building stakeholder relationships and networking
- Contracting and planning engagement with stakeholders
- Developing relationships through emotional intelligence and collaboration
- Overcoming conflict with stakeholders
To find out more about this programme, click here to download our brochure.
Next time on The Daily Dot, we will be looking at the next stage of initialising a project: communicating it to stakeholders and planning how the project will run.
Until next time...