Book Review: Managing Stakeholders as Clients

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Recently I had the opportunity to read the book: “Managing Stakeholders as Clients” by Mario H. Trentim.  The book, published by PMI was well written, and I present my review as a PDU requirement.

As the title in the forward states, the book aids in adding value and organizational success through the power of stakeholder management.  While PMI does a good job of telling us (PMs) who are stakeholders are, and gives us some good tools, Trentim and company take the subject head on and delve deep into the abyss of not just managing our stakeholders as, well, something we have to deal with.  Trentim and company help us bridge the social gap and see our stakeholders, all of them, for who they really are: our clients.  They task us, the PMs, of investing in stakeholder management in order to prevent failure.

Stakeholder management is more than a simple status report, or a phone call.  It is an area that I am not as strong as I wish to be.  The PMI definition is simple, a stakeholder is: An individual, group or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity or outcome of the project.  Well, isn’t that just nice and tidy; not.  In the practical world, I have found that it isn’t quite so clean cut.  It is an area that I struggle with and will continue to do so through the foreseeable future as I try and implement some of Trentim’s suggestions and ideas.

Our customer, a stakeholder, wants one thing: the product, service, or other deliverable that we were hired to produce.  All activity is in support of this – our customer (i.e. client) getting what they paid us to deliver.  It is OK to have our deliverables change a bit during the project.  Progressive elaboration is not a one way street in the project life cycle, why shouldn’t our customer be able to expand the requirements, as long as the scope of the project remains the same and changes are agreed to by all parties?  I have really seen this in a maintenance tracking solution we provided.  The first edition was a simple database; but as our understanding, and our clients understanding of the potential of the solution changed, we both agreed to modify the scope to a web based solution.

One of the big takeaways I got from this book is this:  Stars are nice; but what gets the job done is a group of people working hard together.  This theme of strong teamwork resounds throughout this book, and I picked up on it because I’m a strong believer in teamwork.  Leadership is often thought of as those dynamic leaders who can rally the troops to do unbelievable things.  While this is nice, I think leadership is also the ability to foster a team to work together in an environment where they feel safe, are allowed to expand their knowledge, be allowed to make mistakes, and  the member feels valued.  These beliefs have also been defined as Psychological Safety, a term I recently learned.  chiefsmess

Psychological Safety is the shared belief hat the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.  In psychologically safe teams, the team members feel accepted and respected.  I thought that was just plain old good leadership.  It’s pretty cool when it all clicks together.  By treating your team members, not just as company stakeholders, but as fellow clients, they each will begin to take ownership of the process, to feel “safe” to share their recommendations.  This atmosphere of safety will free the team to learn and promote improved performance.

Feeling valued, I think a person feeling that they are valued by their (organization,family,friends) is a trait that you cannot put a price tag on.  I have seen people I worked for while in the Navy who didn’t appreciate the people under them, and that was too bad, as many a young talented seaman parted ways after their initial hitch.

The most important resource we have is our people, and if we treat them by the golden rule (treat others as you’d like to be treated), i.e. like a client, then you cannot go wrong.

Trentim has done a good job relating good management techniques for all people that touch the project.  But I cannot help but inject my two cents and a plug for the term of the day; “Psychological Safety.”  It’s all about the people.



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