Negotiation

One of the processes you ' l l need to outline for the stakeholders at your project kick-off meeting is how a stakeholder could get a change made to the project. Recall that the stakeholders are not the ones who approve changes in project scope—only the sponsor can approve the changes. Therefore, if a change is made that a stakeholder doesn' t approve of, or if the stakeholder desires a change, you must have some method of airing such desires and allowing them to at least be heard, even if they ' re not integrated into the project.

Negotiation has impact in more than one area. First, if a stakeholder has approached the project team and has brought to light an issue that he feels strongly about, the negotiation process at the very least puts in writing that the stakeholder brought up an issue that you either chose not to deal with or chose to correct. Negotiation provides the stakeholder with the "I told ya ' so" mechanism after the project has deployed and the change requested or issue brought to the fore was not handled.

Negotiation also allows for a formal process through which you can assess the viability of a stakeholder request or issue and potentially avert a project crisis point. You may have great confidence in the direction your project' s headed in, but the stakeholder can see a section of rough road up ahead. Negotiation gives you, the project manager, a chance to fairly assess what the stakeholder is talking about. You may still decide to push forward without any changes, but at least you' ve taken time to hear out what the stakeholder has to say.

Also, negotiation mitigates stakeholder complaints after the project has completed and the system has been deployed. It' s harder for a stakeholder to complain about the system if her suggestions have been heard, weighed, and evaluated according to their merits.

Finally, in some legal scenarios, negotiation helps you leave a paper trail that can support that you ' ve considered and acted upon stakeholder requests appropriately.

Note that the decision-making process is in the hands of the PM, with the blessing of the project sponsor. The stakeholder does not have final authority on changes or issues surrounding a project; it is the project manager and sponsor who have that capacity.

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