Seven Steps to Manage Stakeholder Expectations

You performed an initial stakeholder analysis when you defined and chartered the project. The stakeholder analysis should also be updated periodically to ensure that the stakeholders are being engaged successfully. If the stakeholders are not being engaged as you wished, you should update or change your activities. It is possible that you will also discover new stakeholders as the project progresses, and they should be accounted for in this process as well.

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  1. Establish an agreement. This is probably the most overlooked yet most obvious piece. It is difficult or impossible to manage stakeholder expectations if you do not have some agreement to begin with. You need to agree on what the expectations are. 
  2. Manage change. Once an agreement has been reached, changes should be managed through the change management process. This ensures that the stakeholder approves all changes and helps keep expectations in line.
  3. Communicate proactively. When the agreement has been reached, continue to communicate proactively through the status reporting process or as part of a broader Communication Management Plan – especially if there are any problems meeting the expectations. This helps the stakeholder keep up-to-date on progress, issues, risks, etc. The main motivation is to avoid surprises.
  4. Periodically assess performance. The project manager should be assessing expectations on an ongoing basis. If it looks unlikely that you will meet expectations, immediate steps should be taken to get back on track.
  5. Deliver against the expectations. Again, this may seem obvious. However, once an agreement has been put into place, you need to make sure that you deliver as expected. One of the weaknesses on the part of many people is that they do not fulfill their agreed-upon expectations, and they do not communicate with the stakeholder to inform them of the status and acknowledge the missed expectation.
  6. Reset expectations if necessary. If you determine that the original agreement cannot be satisfied, the agreement should be re-negotiated. This process includes gathering the facts surrounding the inability to meet the original agreement. In addition, alternative courses of action should be formulated to determine how to perform as closely to the original agreement as possible in a way that will satisfy both parties. Once a modified agreement has been reached, reset the expectations and begin the work necessary to meet the requirements of the new agreement.
  7. Complete the agreement. Review the completed work with the stakeholder to ensure that the terms of the agreement have been fully met. If not, negotiate what will be required to fulfill the agreement.

The project manager should ensure that the stakeholders are involved in the project and that the expectations of the stakeholders and project manager are always aligned. Then manage the expectations and achieve the commitments.

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