Project Management: Stakeholder Communication

What are the barriers to good stakeholder communication?

It’s easy to forget about our stakeholders once the project is in full swing! We become engrossed in managing the execution of the work and fail to properly communicate with those we are serving. Also, stakeholder communication can be difficult. Techniques have to be developed to communicate technical or job specific things with an audience that isn’t always well-versed in the details.

Why is stakeholder communication important?

Stakeholder communication is important because customer satisfaction is the proof of a joh well done in project management. Many stakeholders are key decision makers and influencers and we must ensure that the projects we deliver meet their expectations.

How can you properly communicate with stakeholders?

Set Expectations. The best way to figure out the type of communication your stakeholders desire is to ask! Don’t be bashful. Identify your audience and solicit their input about what they want to know as the project progresses.

Set Frequency. Establish a routine for your communication. Different stakeholders may want different things, so make sure you cover your bases with each of them.

Be Consistent. Failing to meet your commitments for communication will cause your stakeholders to lose trust. If you can’t deliver on something as simple as an update, how can you handle a complex project delivery?

Note: Stakeholder communication and coordination of work can occur at the same time if this format and frequency is both efficifent and acceptable for everyone involved. However, it is both acceptable as well as common for them to occur separately.

How can you use these methods to improve stakeholder communication?


Project Management: Coordinating Work

What are the barriers to coordinating work?

We want to guard against being a micro-manager, but we can’t let that fear prevent us from coordinating the work that goes on. We also can’t take such a hands off approach that we don’t ensure that the work is being completed in an efficient and timely manner. The desire to avoid these two ends of the spectrum can sometimes cause us to miss the mark all together with coordination.

Why coordinate the work?

Put simply – the work won’t coordinate itself! As the person responsible for the outcome of the project, you must find the right balance of influence and observation. Too little influence and the project drifts off schedule or budget. Too much, and you might over complicate the situation. Coordination of work is the actual effort made to align the different resources to achieve the desired result. This is different than stakeholder communication (which we will discuss next week), though the two can sometimes occur in conjunction.

How can you properly coordinate?

Set Expectations. Make sure that everyone knows what you expect when it comes to coordination. What kind of information do you want? Which decisions need to be routed through you?

Set Frequency. Establish a regularly scheduled method to coordinate the work. This might be daily, weekly, or monthly meetings and/or discussions. Most often, it is a combination of some or all of the above.

Be Consistent. Follow your plan. Stick to your schedule for coordination as well as your methods. Deviating will impede your ability to get timely information and ultimately deliver a successful project.

How can you use these methods to better coordinate work?

Project Management: Mobilization

What are the barriers to mobilizing?

The barriers are simple. All of the tasks leading up to putting boots on the ground can make you feel like your project has been bogged down. However tedious they may seem, a successful project is one that is well planned and well supported. If you have followed the steps leading up to this, you should be ready to cross the threshold from planning to execution.

Why mobilize?

You mobilize because it is the step that you have been waiting for since your project was just an idea! A concept that you either came up with or accepted because you believed in the merits of it. You believed that if planned and executed successfully, it would lead to better outcomes and results. Mobilization is the first (and biggest) step in seeing this project move from an idea to a reality.

How can you properly mobilize?

Organize. You have taken the time to craft a plan that will help you be successful. Now it is time to organize your resources in accordance with your plan. Gather the people who will help you execute your plan and help them prepare.

Communicate. Be sure that key stakeholders know that it is time to get things moving. Not only will they be excited, but they can also help you make sure that you’re moving according to the plan you created. Review the next steps with them and make sure that conditions have not changed.

Act. Go! This is the time you have been waiting for. It’s time to put your plan to action. Put boots on the ground. Put shovels in the dirt. Get your project started.

How can you use this strategy to be successful?

Project Management: Making the Case

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the barriers to making the case?

Making the case is something that inherently implies that you might not be successful. When it comes to pitching your peoject, you can’t be afraid of your audience or the potential outcome. You aren’t defined by their decision any more than they are.

Why make the case?

The answer to this is almost always a practical one. The decision makers control the funding for your project! While that’s an obvious reason to support making your case, you also want their buy in for the project. Their support will steady the ship as your project moves from beginning to completion

How can you properly make the case?

Be knowledgeable. Know your project better than anyone. This is more than just knowing the upshot of the project. You should know the reasonable objections too.

Be reasonable. Decision makers want to support someone they trust to make good decisions. Your pitch should be objective and honest. Focus on facts and figures that you can reasonably achieve.

Be confident. No one knows your project better than you! When you make the case, rest in that and be confident in your presentation.

How can you use this strategy in making your next case?

Project Management: Proper Resource Assessment

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the barriers to assessing your resources?

First, we must define what our resources are. They most often fall into three categories: time, material, and labor. Once we know this, we must determine which of these we have direct control over. Many times, we will have control over some, but not all of these resources. There are two major barriers to performing a proper resource assessment. We either misunderstand what we have control over or we are too concerned with getting the project moving that we skip this step completely.

What is the case for performing a proper resource assessment?

Now that we have a scope of work and we have identified a project champion, we must begin the process of laying out our roadmap for success. The first stop on that path is to determine if you have fixed or flexible resources. We can quickly determine whether or not we have fixed or flexible resources by asking a few questions.

  1. Does my project have a definitive start and/or finish date?
  2. Does my project have a defined budget?
  3. Can the schedule of my project be accelerated by adding more people?

These three questions will help us determine how to properly evaluate our resources by helping us establish project constraints. Things like schedule, cost, and manpower are variables that we can use to quantify resources. Once we have broken our project down into quantifiable resources, we have the baseline for something that we can measure. Our success can then be measured by these metrics.

How can you properly assess resources?

Our assessment is performed by evaluating the scope of work through the lens of these three metrics.

  1. Schedule. How much time is necessary to complete the project?
  2. Cost. What is the monetary cost of performing this work? Does the cost have a proportional relationship to the schedule? (i.e. Will it cost more to get done faster? Less if it takes longer?
  3. Manpower. How many people will it take to complete the project given the established schedule and cost constraints.

It is important to understand that each of these three have a relationship that can vary between projects. Because of this, there is not a specific order for the assessment. The assessment should start with the variables that are fixed since they are bound by constraints that have been established by someone outside the project.

How can you use this strategy successfully?

Project Management: Who is Your Project Champion?

Justin Clark, MBA

What are the barriers to identifying a project champion?

Every project needs a champion! A champion is a person who is willing to take the lead on building excitement and energy for the project. They often make the largest investment of time in seeing that the project is completed. While the champion isn’t always the project manager, it can be. There are two clear barriers to doing this.

  1. There isn’t someone willing to champion the cause. In this case, we have to ask if the project is worth moving forward. After all, it this project is so important, there would certainly be at least one person willing to take ownership of it. For example, from time to time there is technological innovation that appears to make our job easier. Sometimes, many people will opine that we should pursue this new technology. However, when pressed, no one believes in its merits strongly enough to be the leader. In this case, your project is ultimately dead before it ever starts. While that may seem disappointing, it is better than pressing forward and coming to this conclusion later once more time and resources have been expended.
  2. Everyone wants to be the champion. Your champion doesn’t have necessarily have to be a singular individual, but be mindful that a group can be too big! When identifying who your champion is, you should be careful to choose someone who will be viewed as competent and capable by their peers and anyone else they may have to convince.

What is the case for identifying a project champion?

Whether big or small, all projects will have to endure critique and review. As we like to say it around here, you will have “make the case” for your project. This can also be called building a consensus. Regardless of what iterations you must go through, having a champion will give you someone who has evaluated the merits of the project and can give you the best chance to compel key decision makers to support it.

How can you find and equip your project champion?

  1. Observe. Pay attention to your colleagues. Often times, there interest and enthusiasm for a specific project will be obvious.
  2. Identify. Once you recognize who might be interested, assess them for their strengths and weaknesses. Having an understanding of the scope of work and the key decision makers, you are best positioned to pick the best person for the job.
  3. Approach. Ask them to help you lead this project. Make sure they understand the circumstance and are willing to make the commitment.
  4. Empower. Support your champion with information and resources. Manage them up to colleagues and leaders.

How can you use this strategy successfully?


Project Management: Developing a Roadmap to Success

Justin Clark, MBA

Over the next three months, we will look at techniques to help successfully deliver excellent results in project management. While no two projects are exactly alike, we will review are series of tools and concepts that will help guide us to the results we are looking for in just about any project.

The first step in any project is to develop an accurate and detailed scope of work.

What are the barriers to developing and accurate and detailed scope of work?

There can be a number of barriers to developing an accurate and detailed scope of work, but there is one that presents itself most often. That barrier is time. Many projects come strapped with schedule expectations that exert pressure on you as the project manager to get the project started. Many stakeholders have a desire to see what they perceive to be progress on a project from the very beginning. As the project manager, you have to defend the process of developing a scope of work. While it wont directly result in physical changes or progress, it will serve as your road map to success.

What is the case for developing and accurate and detailed scope of work?

If you set out for a destination without a map or directions, you might be hard pressed to arrive at your intended location. The same is true for a project without a properly developed scope of work. The scope of work lays out in detail what will need to be done. This allows you to build an accurate schedule and budget. While you might be able to perform a project without these things, each of them form a tripod that helps you stabilize expectations and deliver desirable outcomes.  The scope of work also functions as a sort of contract with your customer. It communicates to the customer what you will provide to them. Listen to what they want. Review it with them. Make sure that you are in agreement by having them sign a copy of the scope of work so that there aren’t any questions when the project is completed.

How can you apply this to your job?

  1. Be committed. The process of developing a scope of work is not glamorous or exciting. Frankly, it takes time and a willingness to comb through the details of a project. Don’t mistakenly assume that it isn’t important.
  2. Be thorough. Every project has its share of surprises. While we can’t fully eliminate them, we can limit them by digging into the details of a project before it ever starts.
  3. Be consistent. Develop a process that works for you. While every project is different, following a consistent process will ensure that details are less likely to be missed.

How would you work benefit from applying this concept? 

Development: Building a Culture of Philanthropy

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the barriers to a culture of philanthropy?

Building a culture of philanthropy takes a long time and a dedicated commitment from leadership and all stakeholders. It requires long term relationship building, strategic planning and vision, and regular consistent education. And after you take all of the time to build the culture, you must find ways to sustain it.

What is the case for building a culture of philanthropy anyway?

A culture of philanthropy means you have an engaged board participating in fundraising activities and actively sharing your mission and accomplishments. They all have the elevator speech down. The staff has all bought in and support the development foundation. There is staff dedicated specifically to development and fundraising goals are clear to all stakeholders. All processes focus on the donor and leadership gives time to donor relationship building, especially the CEO.  All of this means more donors, more positive word of mouth, and the more likely your organization is to further its mission in your community.

How can you help?

  1. Ask questions. Make sure you understand your organization’s fundraising goals and know how development impacts your organization’s ability to further the mission.
  2. Share with your coworkers, friends, and family the positive difference and huge impact fundraising has on your organization’s ability to fulfill the mission.
  3. Be the reason donors choose to give to your organization. Live out the mission through your work each day.

How would you work to build and sustain a culture of philanthropy at your organization? 

Development: Volunteer Program

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the barriers to a successful volunteer program?

Volunteers need as much or more leadership and time as the development staff do.  They need guidelines, oversight, job descriptions, task lists, tools, and more.  With the development team’s limited resources and time already, this can seem overwhelming.   The development staff must communicate more and give more time in order to keep everyone rowing in the same direction.

What is the case for building a volunteer program anyway?

Allowing time to develop and sustain a strong volunteer program will give you one of the highest returns on investment you will ever experience.  When volunteers are passionate about supporting your organization and raising money, they often bring more donors and more volunteers to your organization.  Most volunteers already have a personal connection to your organization so they are usually some of the best word of mouth marketers you’ve ever seen!  They strengthen your organization’s message to the community, they build more donor loyalty and build close relationships, and they raise much more money for your nonprofit than you could possibly raise without their support.  With the support to recruitment of volunteers, retention and relationship building with donors, and by spreading your organization’s message even further, volunteers breathe life into your organization’s development program.

How can you help?

  1. Become a volunteer!  Giving more of yourself and your time is one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences.
  2. Share volunteer opportunities at your organization with anyone who may be interested.
  3. Thank volunteers for their time and energy as often as you possibly can.  They are real heroes for your nonprofit organization.

Have you ever volunteered for a nonprofit organization?  Share your experience and what motivated you to give your time.

Development: Grant Writing

Kara Redoutey, MBA

What are the barriers to successful grant writing?

Grants can be extremely difficult to find, difficult to write, and difficult to administer.  You must read the fine print and ensure that your nonprofit meets all of the requirements of the grant.  To even start a grant application, you must have a compelling case that meets the objectives the grant maker is trying to address.  You must have a program or service that makes sense for your community.  You don’t want to apply for funds to address a project from which your community may not benefit.  Grants require a lot of administrative oversight with the submission of status reports, financial reports, and auditing to ensure grant objectives are being met.  And after all of that, keep in mind that there are hundreds of other nonprofit organizations out there competing for the same funding!

What is the case for focusing on grant writing anyway?

Grant writing is integral to a comprehensive development program.  There are thousands and thousands of grant opportunities available to nonprofits.  If you thoroughly perform grant research, you can find grant makers who have the same or similar objectives as your nonprofit organization.  When you do that, you are much more likely to be funded and you cut down on some of the competition. Grants provide another source of funding for projects and services that your community desperately needs that might not otherwise be available to your nonprofit organization. This funding may be exactly what your organization needs to complete or launch a project that makes vast improvements and changes lives within your community.  Grants are vital to the organization’s overall fundraising plan because you are able to obtain funding from outside of your community and not just rely solely on your community’s support.  There are people all over the nation who want to help others and make it their mission to provide communities with the support they need to make a difference.  You just have to be committed to finding it and making the compelling case for the funding.

How can you help?

  1. Make sure the person writing grants for your organization knows all of the needs.  A grant opportunity may become available that could make all the difference for your program or service line.
  2. When an opportunity does become available, provide support and feedback to the grant writer so the grant proposal is the best it can be upon submission.  The grant writer may not know the program or service as well as you, so your input is vital to the grant’s success.
  3. Upon receiving grant funding, attend scheduled meetings to ensure your program is meeting all grant objectives and provide any data or outcomes to the grant writer for status/financial reports.

Have you ever applied for a grant?  Share an approach that has worked well for you.