The Project Management Stakeholder Circuit: A New Paradigm for Stakeholder Management


By D. J. McCord and Eric Wright 

Indiana, USA

The recent fifth edition of the PMBOK (2013) now includes an entirely new process group called ‘project stakeholder management’ (PSM).  A key activity identified by PMI is developing “appropriate management strategies for effectively engaging stakeholders in project decisions and execution” (PMBOK, 2013, p. 391).  Currently, in most organizations, this is accomplished by having project stakeholders attend all or most project meetings.

While this ubiquitous practice may seem to be the most effective way to engage project stakeholders, there are two problems with this approach.  First, project meetings are typically not the best venues for project stakeholders to provide the needed guidance, direction, and leadership.  Second, project stakeholders are usually not the best participants for project meetings, either in terms of content or process.  While the more obvious consequence of these problems is the significant waste of time and money that results from taking stakeholders away from critical management tasks to attend these meetings, that is not at all the most important impact.  A far more significant impact comes from the opportunity costs associated with the failure of projects, resulting from having the wrong people (i.e. project stakeholders) involved in the tactical planning and implementation of those projects.  These opportunity costs can prove crippling to an organization at best, and lethal at worst.

Therefore, this article suggests a converse approach to stakeholder management, one designed to save time and money, and more importantly, to get projects completed on time, on budget, on scope, and with high quality deliverables.  The central theme of this approach is to keep project stakeholders out of most project meetings, except for those in which the stakeholders play a key role.  Some examples of the kinds of meetings that benefit from stakeholder presence would be project ‘kick-off’ meetings and project ‘wrap-up’ meetings in which team-members are recognized for their contributions.  However, the process we recommend does, indeed, provide stakeholders with continuous input and interaction, based on their identified organizational and individual needs and expectations.  Further, it actively engages stakeholders in project decision-making, as well as the activities identified as PSM processes 13.2, 13.3, and 13.4 in the fifth edition of the PMBOK (2013).

One might say that the key to managing anyone (stakeholders included) is to identify and meet the needs of that individual.  Additionally, in the business context, we must simultaneously meet the needs of the organization.  If the needs of the stakeholders and the organization can be met without the stakeholders being physically present in most of the project meetings, the savings in terms of time and money are obvious.  This article will ’lead off‘ with a description of the needs of the stakeholder vis-à-vis those of the organization at large.  It will then present a backdrop for these needs derived from the field of behavioral theory.  Finally, it will provide a model for addressing these needs while minimizing the direct, physical participation in project meetings by the stakeholders themselves.

The needs of stakeholders for a project can be categorized into three areas:  Functional, Organizational, and Psychological.  Let us first consider the ‘Functional’ area.  The ultimate functional need of the stakeholder in terms of potential outcomes of a project meeting is to have the actual project documents (or “artifacts”) themselves.  Another functional need of the stakeholder is the opportunity to provide guidance to the project’s team members and key players.

The two key stakeholder needs in the ‘Organizational’ area can be described as oversight (suggesting knowledge and awareness of activities) and control (suggesting an influence over activities, leading to productive results).  These are essentially what the organization as an entity needs the stakeholders to have.  


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About the Authors

flag-usapmwj18-jan2014-mccord-wright-PHOTO1 MCCORDD. J. McCord, MSM

Indianapolis, USA

DJ McCord, MSM, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the United States Military Academy, and a Master’s degree in Business Management from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, with a concentration in Personnel and Project Management.  His first career was as an infantry officer in the US Army, where he served in various training management roles, and managed a number of projects, including a unit realignment project involving a multi-million-dollar budget and roughly one thousand personnel.  In his next career, he owned and operated a personal growth training center in San Antonio, Texas.  More recently, he has held a variety of training, teaching and training development positions, as well as various project management roles.  He has taught at Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indiana Tech, and DeVry University (where he continues to teach).  The range of subjects on which he has instructed includes management, business, information management, and psychology.  He is the co-author, along with a former head of the Military Academy’s Behavioral Science Department, of a research paper that was published in the proceedings of the Seventh Symposium on Psychology in the Department of Defense.  His work, products, and services can be found at The PM Doctors, and he can be contacted at:

[email protected] or at [email protected].

flag-usaeric-wrightEric Wright, PhD, PMP

Indianapolis, USA

Eric Wright, PhD, PMP, is a project management professor, practitioner, speaker, trainer, and founding consultant/CEO of The PM Doctors.  He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration, with a Concentration in Financial Management, from Northcentral University, an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies, with a Concentration in Psychology, from Excelsior College.  Additionally, he is pursuing a Master’s in Project Management from the PMI GAC-accredited Keller Graduate School of Management.  His doctoral dissertation focused on the leadership behaviors of project managers associated through LinkedIn, and examined variables that influence a project manager’s choice of leadership behavior.  Eric is also a Project Management Professional (PMP), and Process Improvement Expert (Lean 6 Green Belt).  He has twenty-three years of experience as a project manager and facilitator, accountant, resource manager, teacher/trainer, and leader at many levels of responsibility in various organizations.  He has taught and trained in the fields of healthcare, public financial and accounting services, project management, the military, and education.  His work, products, and services can be found at The PM Doctors, and he can be contacted at [email protected] or at www.linkedin.com/pub/eric-wright-phd-pmp/29/579/569/.