2. Consult early and often

This is the second principle of stakeholder engagement.

A project, particularly in the early stages, will be unclear to its stakeholders in terms of (for example) its purpose, scope, risks and approach. Early, then regular consultation is needed to ensure that requirements are agreed and a delivery solution is negotiated to the agreement of most, if not all, stakeholders. Shifting stakeholder views then need to be managed throughout the project. This can only be achieved through consultation throughout the project lifecycle.

Why is it important?

The success of any programme or project is largely determined by the degree to which stakeholders’ expectations are met. Without consultation, project plans will be built on assumption and there will be failure to deliver what is really needed. Stakeholders can also change their mind during the project lifecycle and even forget what they initially agreed. So therefore regular contact with most, if not all stakeholders is essential.

About the 10 key principles

What does it cover?

This principle refers to the activities and products needed to seek out and discuss stakeholder views.

Examples of activities include:

  • Gaining information and recording project and business risks.
  • Clarifying working relationships, interfaces and boundaries between stakeholders (e.g. between project manager and project sponsor).
  • Understanding what information is required by whom and when.
  • Agreeing project success measures.
  • Identifying output owners and handover requirements.
  • Identifying interdependences, dependencies and concurrency and developing interface working agreements.

It does not cover methods of communication or the behaviours between the project team and project stakeholders. These topics are more the focus of Principles 1. Communication and 3. Remember, they’re only human

 

How might I do it?

  • Carefully consider who should lead the consultation and the best time and place to hold the meeting(s).
  • Avoid consultation by email for the initial engagement unless a relationship already exists.
  • Ensure all project team members play a part in the consultation process following appropriate coaching and guidance.
  • Develop a Data Identification Description.
  • Ask your sponsor to support you to engage select political, higher level stakeholders.

Some resources

Use the links below to find particular examples and sources that are relevant to this principle.

Bibliography

1 Clumsee, P. and Awati, K (2013) The Heretic’s Guide To Best Practices: The Reality Of Managing Complex Problems In Organisations. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse

2 Clumsee, P. and Awati, K (2012) Towards A Holding Environment: Building Shared Understanding And Commitment In Projects. International Journal Of Managing Projects In Business, 5(3):528-48

3 Schein, Edgar H. (2016). Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster. Berrett-Koehler.

Benefits of doing it

Benefits of applying this principle include

  • Improved chance of project success as measures of what is to be produced are agreed.
  • Reduced misunderstanding, conflict and delay as working relationships are agreed.
  • Speedier problem solving and realisation of opportunities.
  • Increased reliability of plans and documents.
  • Effective handover of outputs at predetermined points in the project.

Risks of not doing it

Risks of overlooking this principle include

  • Lack of commitment to the project.
  • Increased incidence of change requests.
  • Overlooked project interdependencies, dependencies and concurrencies.
  • Increased reworking.
  • Stakeholder expectations and benefits not delivered.
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