Join Chris Croft for an in-depth discussion in this video Managing stakeholders who have conflicting requirements, part of Solving Common Project Problems.
- Okay so the first type of problem that we need to look out for is people problems. These are quite possibly the biggest problem you're gonna have because people are so much more variable than anything else. So I've divided people problems into two. The first people-related problem is stakeholders. Now these may be customers, suppliers. It might be your boss. A big problem with projects is that often the different stakeholders have different ideas about what success looks like. They have different objectives that they want from the project.
So how do we handle that? The best way to deal with that is to have a kick-off meeting at the start. Now it's a known procedure in project planning to have a kick-off meeting where you get everyone together and you all discuss the project. I'd like to suggest a slight refinement on that, which is actually to have two kick-off meetings. So first of all you have a kick-off meeting with everybody to talk about what they want from the project. But at that point, you have to be very careful not to promise anything. You just find out what they want and you say to them, okay great, I'm gonna go away and do some planning now.
Let's meet again in a week and I'll tell you whether I can do it. You then get together a week or two later. The second meeting, the purpose of this is for them to sign off your plan and agree it. If you've done the planning and it's possible to do what they want, that's great, you can just turn up and say yes, I can do it. Everybody signs it. But quite often what happens is that you go away, you do your planning and you discover that they can't have everything that they want. They're gonna have to either reduce the scope or the quality slightly of what they're gonna have, or they're gonna pay more in order to get everything that they want.
So at this second meeting, you're saying to them guys, you're gonna have to choose which of these you want to do. Maybe some of them will want one, some will want the other. You have to just sit back and let them fight them fight it out because it's up to them to decide what they want. It's not up to you. So that's the purpose of the second meeting. Now it's very important at this second meeting that you're assertive. Don't say, yes I think I can deliver that, or maybe I can deliver that, I'll see what I can do. 'Cause if you say that, people hear the word yes, and then if you fail later, it's your fault.
So what you should do at this meeting is you should absolutely be strong and say, no I've done a plan and you can see that it's not possible to do it in the time. So a key point really here is that assertiveness comes from planning. Planning makes you stronger. If you've got a Gantt chart you can show them, you can say here's a plan that I've made, and as you can see from the time scale, it's gonna take longer. So do you want to wait longer, do you want to pay more, or do you want to reduce the quality? So be really strong. Planning makes you stronger. Then at the end of this second kick-off meeting, we get it in the writing.
The best way probably to get it in writing is to email them afterwards so they don't sign a document there and then. But what happens is we all agree it, and after the meeting you email saying just to confirm in order to get it into the time scale, we're gonna miss a couple of features out. Or maybe just to confirm in order to deliver all the features, we're gonna take an extra month. The most important thing is to get it written down because if you don't, there is a risk that a year later it will come back to bite you, they'll have forgotten the meeting and they'll be saying, well, you know, why haven't you delivered this? So get it in writing.
What I'd like you to do is just think about the project that you're working on at the moment, and think were you assertive enough at the meeting? Did you even have a meeting? Did you get it properly written down?
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