While I’d hate to draw any similarities between project management and psychopaths, there’s a saying which is frequently uttered by the neighbours of serial killers right after they have been apprehended: “But he/she seemed like such a nice, normal person“. This phrase comes to mind when I think about just how complicated stakeholder management can be.
It’s bad enough that you have to manage highly complex projects under challenging or even unrealistic constraints, but when you add to that a mob of stakeholders which occasionally resembles a classroom of unruly preschoolers who’ve consumed too much Halloween candy, and you might be forgiven for dreaming about committing some pretty heinous crimes!
My focus today is not on the needy, high maintenance stakeholders who frequently consume too much of your time. Instead, I wish to warn you about the dangers of ignoring the ones who you never hear from.
Here are just a few ways in which quiet stakeholders could cause you grief:
- They might be actively subverting your project by “poisoning the air” with their staff, your sponsor or with other key stakeholders.
- You might assume that they are out there performing the groundwork with their organizations to receive the changes brought about by your project, but they may either be unaware that they need to be doing this, or, because you haven’t followed up with them regularly, they might have given this preparatory work no attention.
- If you are not meeting with them regularly to keep them up-to-date on your project, who is? What misconceptions or myths about your project might be getting passed along to them?
- They might think you are purposely ignoring them which might turn a potential change advocate into an active resister.
When things get extremely busy on your projects it can become very tempting to consider silent stakeholders as a blessing, but beware – those silent waters might run deep enough to drown your project!