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Handling Project Changes by Stakeholders

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 2/28/2011

The definition of a stakeholder in a project is essentially anyone that has an interest in the project. But what happens when an important stakeholder wants a major change?

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    1. Define Your Stakeholders

    Changes by Stakeholders Before you can determine what to do with project changes by stakeholders, have you defined your stakeholders using a stakeholder analysis matrix? This type of matrix for identifying stakeholders allows you to envision each interest on an “importance" and “influential" level.

    This matrix identification is essential—why? A change request from an “of little importance" or “little influential" stakeholder should not be handled the same as a more important or influential stakeholder within the project. Take the time to create your stakeholder analysis matrix in your project planning phase.

    Image Credit (MorgueFile/mensatic)

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    2. Stakeholder Register

    Once your stakeholders are identified, it’s time to implement the all-important stakeholder register. This is something all stakeholders should sign off on and contains items such as the names of stakeholders, their roles, whether they are external or internal, agreed upon communication plans and status updates, to name a few. By implementing stakeholder rules through the register, project changes by stakeholders become easier as guidelines are usually set in your change management plan.

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    3. Change Management

    Along with a stakeholder analysis matrix and register, you also need to create the change management plan you listed in the stakeholder register. Change management plans outline how change requests will be processed, prioritized, and dealt with in a clear fashion. Failing to use a change control process will make it even harder for you to deal with project changes by stakeholder—especially if they have no set rules to follow.

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    4. Communication & Accountability

    Stakeholder collaboration and communication are important elements of any project. As the project manager or leader, make sure all of your stakeholders can access the agreed upon communication plan and understand collaboration procedures. Often, it may take a firm hand when dealing with stakeholder accountability—meaning it’s up to you as the project leader to let the stakeholders know if they are harming or holding up the project, or even a phase of the project.

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    5. Project Reviews

    It’s important to include every stakeholder in the project review or evaluation once the project is complete. Everyone can learn from mistakes made or elements that flowed efficiently. A good project review will allow you to handled project changes by stakeholders in future projects, especially if you can define weak links or areas. This is a time for honesty and stakeholder development; don’t forget this important stage of your project. You should also consider this time as a great way to evaluate team performance.

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    If It All Goes Wrong

    Unfortunately, with stakeholders comes the human element and sometimes your best laid plans can go awry. If this happens, make sure you’re clear on everyone’s roles and responsibilities, even if that means another meeting! You can deal with project changes by stakeholders if you utilize these project management tools effectively.

    Reference: Stakeholder Analysis (Rachel Thompson) - http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_07.htm

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