8) Compromise: the eighth principle of stakeholder engagement
The initial step is to establish the most acceptable baseline across a set of stakeholders' diverging expectations and priorities. Assess the relative importance of all stakeholders to establish a weighted hierarchy against the project requirements and agreed by the project sponsor.
Why is it important?
Stakeholders can often have different views about the same requirement of a project. You will need to navigate expectations amongst your stakeholder community to achieve a satisfactory solution that all parties are content to sign up to. This is a key function of requirements capture associated with the project management role.
What does it cover?
Explore the root cause of any divergent stakeholder views and try to identify any common ground that you can use as a platform for on-going discussion. It is important to make sure that your stakeholders feel listened to and understood.
Shared objectives are stronger than individual ones and help to foster good collaboration.
How might I do it?
- Make sure that your stakeholder map is current and aligned to the Project Lifecycle. This will help you to evaluate differing world views, and apply appropriate weightings depending on the proximity and importance of each stakeholder and stakeholder group.
- Document the objectives of each stakeholder in order to identify the ‘centre of gravity’ where stakeholder interests align, and to identify stakeholders who may need to compromise further due to conflicting agendas.
- Seek to understand the real needs of each stakeholder to help develop compromise solutions.
- Establish a regular rhythm to your stakeholder communication so that you have an early understanding of any issues and they have visibility of future project impacts.
Use the links below to find particular examples and sources that are relevant to this principle.
- Stakeholder engagement in a globally distributed software project
- Organisational change and stakeholder management
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a public infrastructure project
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a hostel development project
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a IT system delivery project
Patterns and Tools
1 Baker, Dean (2009). Multi-Company Project Management: Maximizing Business Results Through Strategic Collaboration. (p. 58.) J Ross.
2 Fitzgerald, Matthew E and Ross, Adam M (2013) Guiding Cooperative Stakeholders to Compromise Solutions Using and Interactive Tradespace Exploration Process Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
3 Galford, R., Green, C. and Maister, D. (2002).The Trusted Advisor Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
Benefits of applying this principle include:
- Engenders stakeholder confidence that their concerns are being listened to.
- Allows a workable solution to be applied to what may seem a difficult problem.
- Helps to build a relationship across your stakeholder community.
- Establishes a more transparent and open project culture.
Risks of overlooking this principle include:
- Following one stakeholder's proposed solution could alienate others and impact project success.
- Project managers are viewed as problem solvers, and failing to compromise is likely to weaken your standing.
- Relationships may deteriorate, and issues develop that could have been avoided.