The Problem With Stakeholder Management

It may be a bit controversial but there are a number of things that bother me about discussions of stakeholder management. I remember a project that I was brought into, where the goal was to help a junior business analyst with a large endeavor that wasn't going very well. This BA was all about stakeholder management, hierarchies and approval processes. You know a project is going to be a challenge when too many people use the term "CYA" and they use that term in the most innocent of situations. 

In a "Lessons Learned" meeting after the laborious first phase was finally completed, some of the feedback was that status of the project was never communicated. When the meeting facilitator started to dig into the topic, the most common comment was that the BA never communicated to them after gathering requirements. I asked the junior business analyst about this and she told me that "it wasn't her job". 

I know, pretty outrageous right? She stated that communications were the responsibility of the project manager, via the communication plan and should be focused towards leadership. It was leaderships responsibility to communicate status downward. She could show me a log of all the times she sent a status update spreadsheet to the project manager and this fulfilled what she had listed as her stakeholder management plan. 

Until I heard this, I didn't realize I had a problem with the term "stakeholder management" and I also was able to realize why I was never fond of communication plans. It was like a curtain was lifted and I could now start to separate "the good advice" about stakeholder interaction discussions from the "really bad advice". 

It is accurate that stakeholder information is vital to successfully completing a project requirements lifecycle. Capturing information such as supervisor names, department, power & influence, attitude, communication methods and other related attributes are often critical. It is important for a continuous improvement minded business analyst to constantly research and implement steps to improve stakeholder interactions.

However, you don't capture this information to MANAGE stakeholders, you do it so that you can COLLABORATE with them. The terms of MANAGEMENT and COLLABORATION are widely different things. Without any reservation, I will stand proudly by the notion that you can see the quality difference in business analyst deliverables based upon the level of collaboration used to create them.

© 2015 Dwayne Wright