How to Win Stakeholders Over

There are many good books on how to influence other people. Two of our favorites are Influence: Science and Practice by Dr. Robert Cialdini (1988) and The Anatomy of Power by Kenneth Gailbraith (1983). Like most experts on the use of power and techniques for influencing people, Cialdini and Gailbraith make the distinction between sources of power and techniques used for influencing people.

In effect, as shown in Figure 21.1, the sources of power are like a battery that you can use to charge your ability to influence. Influence styles are how you use your power source.

Figure 21.1. Power and influence


As a project manager, you will generally have these sources of power available to you:

  • Organizational: Clearly, the higher your level in the organization, the greater your source of power.

  • Expertise and reputation: If you are perceived as an expert project manager by the members of your organization, you can use this as a source of power.

  • Precedent: If other project managers have done a similar thing before and it has worked, you can often use this precedent as a source of power.

  • Referent: You can use the power, reputation, and position of another person as a source of power. For example, you could say "Rob and Camille Thomsett say that RAP sessions are powerful and they are world experts and authors (ahem)." Alternatively, you can use the project sponsor and other stakeholders as a source of referent power (see later).

  • Reciprocity: In other terms, one good turn deserves another. This is a very effective source of power. Make it clear that if the stakeholder attends your planning session, you will be obliged to assist him or her at some later date.

  • Information: Most people know how to use this source of power. You can use the fact that participants in the RAP session will know more about the project and have a greater chance of influencing it by attending the session.

As we've discussed throughout this book, the role of the project sponsor and how you can use this person's power and influence to assist you is critical in contemporary project management.

Using whatever sources of power you have, there are different techniques for using that power to influence people. The model we like makes the distinction between push and pull styles of influence. Push styles attempt to push people toward where you want them to go. Pull styles attempt to bring the people to your position.

Push influence styles include the following:

  • Logical persuasion: This style of influencing uses logical reasoning supported by facts and figures to attempt to persuade someone to do something. For example, "If you can attend the RAP session, you will be able to ensure that the requirements you have are completely understood by the team. Also, the RAP process saves over 50% of the time required for planning."

  • Goals and reinforcement: The use of both positive rewards and negative punishments to ensure compliance: "As you know, we are ISO 9000 compliant and we must ensure that all requirements are fully documented. In addition, the use of RAP sessions is now an organizational standard and we don't want the standards police to notice that you weren't at the session, do we?"

Pull influence styles include the following:

  • Participation and trust: This is a very powerful influence style. By admitting mistakes, uncertainty, and asking for others' assistance, you can often get people to change their position: "Look, I'm very nervous about undertaking this project without your expert input. I am sure that the project will go better if you could help me by attending the RAP session."

  • Common vision: Most experts agree that this is the most powerful of all influence styles. By invoking a common goal or by emphasizing the positives, you can really get people to change their views: "We all want this project to succeed. We'll all have a much more secure future if this project produces the killer product ahead of schedule. By joining us all in the RAP session, you'll become part of the A team and help us win."

The key to power and influence is to "mix and match" your approach. Most people tend to use the same sources of power and the same influence styles all the time. As a project manager, you must learn to be more flexible and become comfortable using all sources of power and all influence styles.

Remember They Have Other Jobs as Well

If you remember back to Chapter 4, you will be aware that many of your most important stakeholders are important because they are real experts. As a result, they will also be under a lot of pressure from the following areas:

  • Other project managers who need them as stakeholders as well,

  • Their day-to-day process work, and

  • Downsizing and demands for increased productivity.

The Power of Common Vision

If you watched a video of Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech or those of Churchill, Malcolm X, J.F. Kennedy, and other great communicators , you understand the power of common vision as an influence style. Perhaps a less dramatic but more relevant example is the pirate flag that flew over Apple headquarters as they were developing the Macintosh. Steve Jobs understood how the common vision of corporate brigands and bureaucracy busters unified the Mac team.

When these people look a little less than excited about you asking them to attend your RAP session, take a moment to understand their position. Indeed, in most organizations, the amount of time that business experts spend attending project sessions is not taken into account in the measurement and appraisal of their "normal" work.

For example, you need an expert in insurance client relationships to attend a planning session. These people are measured and rewarded by the number of insurance policies they sell per week. Every hour that he or she spends in your RAP session will reduce his or her selling rate as compared to colleagues. The use of formal stakeholder agreements can solve this problem, but you must be aware of the other pressures on your key stakeholders and see if there is anything you can do to make participating in your RAP session easier for these people. Remember, you have your project. Your stakeholders have their jobs as well as your project.

Radical Project Management
Radical Project Management
ISBN: 0130094862
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 136
Authors: Rob Thomsett

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