Do You Ask These Three Essential Project Stakeholder Questions?

Build Collective Purpose and Manage Risk

The greater the organizational complexity, the more critical it is to make sure that all of the stakeholders are in alignment on common goals.

The following are three key fundamental questions that every stakeholder, no matter their position in the organization, should know and understand in order to assure that everyone is moving towards the collective purpose of each digital initiative.

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Artwork by: Parker Gindele

Features | Viewpoints

Imagine a busy intersection. It’s rush hour and everyone is trying to get home as quickly and safely as possible. Like clockwork, commuters’ cars stop and go, diligently obeying the traffic lights and maintaining a (somewhat) safe distance from one another. Each driver knows the rules, understands what’s at stake and works diligently to reach a common goal: to get home.

The busy traffic light is a metaphor for a well-managed team of professionals and how they can come together to reach a shared vision. The team (the drivers) work together to reach a common goal (to get home). To reach this goal, they must agree on the vision, know their roles and how they contribute to the end result, and understand what’s at stake. If they execute the plan successfully, they will achieve their goal (to get home).

Every attainable project has a clear vision.

The vision establishes the goal and the critical steps needed to reach that goal, but the work doesn’t stop there. Creating the vision is essential, but if you don’t have the right team to execute it, then it’s of no greater value than the paper (or keyboard) upon which it was written. To make your vision a reality, you must assemble a competent, qualified team to carry it out. Without the support, knowledge and cooperation of the team, your vision will vanish.

How do you cultivate an aligned team? Equip them with a unified understanding of the project’s vision, outcomes and impact. Each team member should be able to consistently and clearly answer questions like: What is the vision, or goal of this project? What will happen when the goal is achieved? What will happen if the goal is not achieved? If they aren’t on the same page about these key considerations, then there will definitely be a wreck.

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Vision: What is the overarching goal of this project?

It seems like a simple question and it is, but if even one member of the team cannot answer, then the project is far less likely to succeed. Some people consider project vision to be free-form and open-ended, but it really isn’t. The overarching goal of a project should be clearly defined for each member of the team.

According to Theodore Hesburgh, former President of the University of Notre Dame, “The very essence of leadership is [that] you have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet." 

Outcome: What are the results for you as a team member versus the team and organization as a whole?

To reach the overall goal, each team member will be assigned a set of benchmark goals, specific to their knowledge and expertise. Beware: team members can easily get caught up in their personal goals at the expense of the overall goal! 

For example, if you were a Chief Marketing Officer on a team to roll out a new mobile application. You are naturally focused on driving revenue and growth. This gives you a totally different set of short-term objectives which may be at odds with the time and attention needed to achieve the overall vision.

It’s absolutely essential that you take a step back and see the project at large to prevent your short-term goals from blurring the vision. In doing so, you bring clarity to the project and confidence to the project manager.

Lisa Sullivan-Cross CMO of Art.com recently addressed this issue during the Mobile First podcast. She shared that she has had several experiences at companies like Pandora and Lucasfilm which required leadership buy-in before she could proceed with her vision. In order to succeed, she needed leadership to see the vision and its outcome as a whole, not fret over the individual tasks needed to reach the goal. Her advice was, “It always comes down to providing data to show leadership that this will be good for the business.”

Impact: What’s at stake if we didn’t do this?

Every team member should know the answer to this question so they are aware of just how much is at stake. When you undergo a project, one of the goals is to improve something or fill a need. What if it isn’t improved? What if you don’t meet that need? When the team knows what’s at stake, they can clearly understand the costs of not delivering.

Start with this: According to a recent study of IT executives conducted by the Project Management Institute, 28 percent of IT projects fail. That’s one in four. Being aware of this adversity will inspire your team to not be another statistic. 
 
Every team must be on the same page when it comes to vision, outcome and impact. In doing so, every member will have clarity and confidence needed to successfully reach their goal. For more about these variables, and how to make your project as successful as possible, download the Product Vision and Planning Checklist. It is a proven tool that takes users through a series of considerations to create a clear, attainable vision.

Every team must be on the same page when it comes to vision, outcome and impact. In doing so, every member will have clarity and confidence needed to successfully reach their goal. For more about these variables, and how to make your project as successful as possible, download the Product Vision and Planning Checklist. It is a proven tool that takes users through a series of considerations to create a clear, attainable vision.

Don’t cause a wreck. Create a cohesive team to make your vision a reality.

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Artwork by: Parker Gindele

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