Should we be Managing or Engaging Stakeholders in Programme Management?

A term often used in programme management – in fact it is even used in the PMI Standard for Program Management 2nd Edition – is Stakeholder Management.

In reality Stakeholder Engagement is what we need to aspire to, as ‘managed’ stakeholders often find a way to avoid being managed!


Engaged stakeholders are actively involved and see the value of continuing that involvement throughout the programme.


If we can stretch an analogy, it is much easier to herd cats if you are armed with cat food and the cats are hungry for the benefits!


Within an individual project, the late identification of a key stakeholder can lead to changed requirements, resulting changes in scope and impacts to cost and schedule. However, the greatest impact can be to relationships and damaged trust between the parties involved which can be extremely difficult to rebuild.


Within a programme the identification of stakeholders is naturally more complex than for an individual project. This additional complexity is often most evident in stakeholder impacts. For instance, within a programme consisting of multiple projects along with the affected operational areas, some projects could have a positive impact on the stakeholder whilst others are perceived as negative. This could lead to apparently erratic behaviour from stakeholders. Supporting the programme one minute and then dragging their feet the next, because the differing parts of the programme produce different outcomes for the stakeholder. If we don’t understand the drivers of other stakeholders then we can often assume the worst about their behaviours.


Thinking of some of the key inputs that we should use to help identify Programme Stakeholders, the contracts setting up the agreements between the parties involved in a programme can provide us with greater clarity. They can help to diagnose potential areas of conflict where the contracts could cause tension between participants. For instance with a mixture of reimbursable and fixed price contracts we can have inappropriate behaviours to maximise value rather than proper alignment of the parties involved. If we can analyse and organise the drivers for all the stakeholders in a programme we will have a far better chance of integrating the entire programme and driving successful outcomes as a result. Contractors bonuses being proportional to value generated can lead to true alignment and drive supportive, collaborative effort.


Having determined who the stakeholders are, their interests in the programme and degree of support or opposition that they have at the programme and project level; we then determine the degree they can influence the programme.  This information will help determine the relative care with which we should engage the stakeholder to optimise the stakeholder engagement.

One final thought - always remember to try to identify as comprehensive a range of stakeholders, both external and internal, early on in the programme.


It’s the snake you miss that starts to hiss!

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