Of the 10 Project Management knowledge areas, Stakeholder Management is the newest and the one that seems to be mislabeled. I understand that standardization allows us to cope with complexity, which is the domain of management and management skills.

 

However, our interactions with stakeholders are actually in the leadership domain – relationship building, influencing, listening, problem solving, etc. Therefore, “stakeholder management” always sounds odd to me. I wonder if stakeholders reading this or other project management publications ever feel a little uncomfortable with the term?

 

The story that follows may help change your perspective about project manager – stakeholder relationships, as well as a stakeholder’s perception of the true meaning of Stakeholder Management.

 

There was once a wealthy man who owned 17 camels. Upon his death, he left instructions in his will as to how the camels would be divided among his three sons. The eldest was to receive ½ of the camels, while the second was to receive 1/3 of the camels, and finally the youngest son was to receive 1/9 of the camels. Since it is not possible to divide 17 by 2, 3, or 9, they decided to visit a wise man and request that he find a just solution.

 

The wise man told the brothers that he could not solve the division of the 17 camels. However, he would give the brothers one of his own camels to increase the total to 18. Now the brothers could get their correct share of the inheritance as their father had directed. The eldest received (18/2) = 9 camels, the second son received (18/3) = 6, and the youngest received (18/9) = 2. Guess what happened? Adding up each share (9 + 6 + 2) = 17 camels, which was the original problem. The wise man solved the problem and got his camel back!

 

Our role in the project manager – stakeholder relationship should be like that of the wise man: using our leadership traits and talents to find win-win solutions. Every project presents different challenges and requires that we use both our management skills and our leadership talents to succeed. However, it is very difficult to achieve success if our stakeholders are not satisfied with the final product, service or result.

 

Stop trying to manage your stakeholders. Rather, focus on building relationships, listening, identifying their needs, and guiding them to better solutions.

 

Make it your goal as Project Managers to find the 18th camel – the solution that makes everyone a winner!