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Stakeholders Change Their Minds: Get Used To It November 8, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Product design, Project management.
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Here’s what we’ve been taught: spend the first part of your project talking to stakeholders and customers, develop a deep understanding of their expectations, translate those expectations to requirements and deliverables and objectives, document everything, and review with the stakeholders to verify your understanding.

Guess what? Your stakeholders will change their minds. I can almost guarantee it will happen, regardless of how well you plan or how much time you spend gathering their inputs. It’s not personal. They’re not trying to make your life miserable, although it may feel that way. Circumstances and priorities change, and there are a lot of legitimate internal and external reasons to re-evaluate the project’s objectives. End-users and competitors don’t wait idly until you make your next move. The remaining cost of your project will be continually compared with other strategic opportunities. The unique nature of your project may assume the use of unproven technology or processes that are later found to be ineffective after trials or prototypes.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Project planning should always include some assessment of risk, including the risk of a major project re-set as a result of new stakeholder input. The correct response from the project manager is not aggravation, but rather an honest and objective reassessment. It’s important to reconvene all the key stakeholders and make sure everyone understands the possible impact to project schedule, budget, resources, and quality. One of the most valuable and underrated skills in project management is adaptability. You’ll be in a constant state of frustration without it.

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