Continuous ImprovementProject Management Office

Clash with Top Stakeholders? Tips to Manage It

Project managers usually face the heat when their interests clash with that of the organization’s top stakeholders. However, project delivery is your responsibility, and you must do your best to make it a reality. It means having that tough talk with the senior management if you need to progress further. These talks also help you be on top of what is important to your stakeholders. In this article at PM Tips, Jon Quigley and Steve Lauck share tips on two everyday tough situations that project managers often face when they clash with top stakeholders.

Handling Top Stakeholders

Project managers coordinate between the clients and teams regarding requirements. When those needs are over the top, they find themselves in a tight spot. Sometimes the clients demand something that contradicts their interests in the project. How do you get out of such situations? Here are two common scenarios with top stakeholders and tips to handle them:

Scenario One – Sudden Requests

You are not aware that the senior management had a talk with clients and agreed to add new features to the ongoing project. Generally, it happens once in a project lifecycle. You should proactively bring transparency in the discussions with logic and politeness. You must clarify how not being part of the conversation disables you from facilitating an early implementation. You must tell your higher-ups how you are responsible for the project outcomes. Always give them the benefit of the doubt that they might not be aware of their requests’ complexity.

Scenario Two – Estimate Dispute

Project managers know the capabilities of their team members. It is a good idea to consult with your team members. After checking the estimates, clients might think the numbers are too high according to their expectations and want to curb some of them. You can go back to the product team and discuss the new developments to be on top of what your top stakeholders want. The hard part is to convince the senior management that your estimates are less than the previous projects. So, ask what they are willing to sacrifice to get the product delivered according to their expected estimates. They might go for another round of discussions. Since you have provided them with the issues, they might accept parts of your requests.

Project managers are trained in conflict management, so these are rare but common situations. Since you are in a position of responsibility, you must know when to assert yourself. If you do not point out the risks now, the senior leaders will do the same tomorrow. You have greater visibility than the stakeholders, so you must save them from their own follies.

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