Situation – Stakeholders Expectations

On the last couple of projects Sam thought everything was going great, until the end, when project stakeholders surprised him with negative feedback.

For example, he recently had an 8-month new residential complex design project where he had monthly stakeholder meetings. All of these meetings went very well, he thought it was all smooth sailing…until the last meeting, which was the project closure meeting. Throughout the project, the stakeholders were all very amiable and polite, signing off on everything that he presented, including project change orders. The meetings usually ended by the sponsor thanking him for the good work he’d been doing. However, in the final meeting, when he turned over the final project deliverables and announced that the project was done, he asked for their final feedback. It was as if he was talking to different people.  They didn’t agree that the project went well and they criticized his management of the whole project from the start.

This didn’t just happen once, however, it happened in similar ways on his last two projects as well.

This has shaken his confidence.  What is making them change their attitude at the end? When he asks his peers about this, they say suggest they must have been unhappy the whole time, but just didn’t communicate it. Why can’t stakeholders be trusted for honest feedback during the project? Is this a normal problem for other project managers? Why are stakeholders doing this? 

What Project Management Tools & Techniques Should be Used?

This is a standard case of missed expectations – especially in regards to project quality. The stakeholders’ needs were probably not clearly understood in the beginning and the project plans were probably not shared in enough detail with the stakeholders.

They had confidence that you were of the same mindset with them, until the product deliverables came in with the proof that you had different expectations.

What project management tools and techniques can stop this from occurring?

Solicit stakeholders input. Make sure you are talking to your sponsor and other stakeholders and gathering their input throughout the project.  During project planning this will help you determine what success means so that you can deliver on the correct outcomes.

Create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Often termed the Cornerstone of Planning, this deliverable helps to put boundaries on and gain agreement for what is in and out of scope.

Quality plan. Spend time thinking about quality.  What are the requirements and how will you ensure they are met.

Risk plan. Work with all of your stakeholders to fully track uncertainty that could impact your project in a negative or positive way.  Make plans for how you would address each potential risk if it occurred and make sure to communicate around risk management throughout the project.

Communication plan. A good communication plan will help you better understand your stakeholders communication preferences and expectations.

Quality assurance. Did you clearly understand what the quality criteria was, and did you validate along the way that you were achieving it? Or were you only showing them minor parts, where they were unable to get a view of the whole project outcome?

Manage stakeholders. Make sure you are managing your stakeholder expectations.  Spend time gathering their requirements and following your communication plan.

Formal acceptance. Is it potentially the abrupt way you are telling the stakeholders that the project is done without going through a proper process of deliverable approval and acceptance first?

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