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John P. Reiling, PMP: Use 80:20 to Boost Your Stakeholder Management

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Do you find that stakeholders all too often simply “ask for the moon”? Often for stakeholders, a new project quickly becomes an opportunity to fix every problem in sight…and achieve MANY different things at the same time. But, applying the 80:20 Rule, or Pareto Principle, that’s where YOU, as the project manager, come in…

For a stakeholder, the project is an opportunity to make a change. There is a temptation to solve a plethora of ills on their project…and they may feel that “this is my chance.” You must not only understand their motivation, but also see it through a lens that enables you to frame the project for success and by achieving the most important things. That’s what 80:20 stakeholder management, or applying the Pareto Principle, is all about.

Here are some of typical motivators that drive a stakeholder:

  1. Opportunity to fix a nagging problem.
  2. Raise personal prestige in the eyes of subordinates, peers, and superiors.
  3. A pay raise or bonus could be a payoff.
  4. A promotion could result.
  5. Life on the job could be made easier – for self AND others.
  6. This could open new opportunities for organizational change and growth.
  7. Costs can decrease.
  8. Increased quality can be achieved.
  9. Payback can be provided to someone within the organization.
  10. Favors can be given to select individuals within or outside the organization.

You can leverage the 80:20 rule, or Pareto Principle, to handle these thorny stakeholder management issues. Here’s how:

  1. Recognize that the motivations on the list are all potential sources of scope creep, and maybe 80% of them will actually only add 20% of the total value.
  2. Realize that it is your job, at least in part, to scope the project and to help determine which items are part of the 80% that produce 20% of the value, and which are part of the 20% that produce 80% of the value.
  3. Identify as clearly as you can the ONE ITEM – feature, core product, process, or outcome – that will produce the most value, and work to build the scope statement around that.
  4. Try to push off the smaller items until after the core value has been achieved.
  5. Set up a system for responding to the desires of your stakeholders by distinguishing requests according to 80:20 principles.

The 80:20 Rule, or Pareto Principle, is a powerful concept that is applicable in virtually every facet of life. If you can embed 80:20 thinking into your approach, especially in working with stakeholders, you will provide tremendous project management value.

John Reiling, PMP
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