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:
- Opportunity to fix a nagging problem.
- Raise personal prestige in the eyes of subordinates, peers, and superiors.
- A pay raise or bonus could be a payoff.
- A promotion could result.
- Life on the job could be made easier – for self AND others.
- This could open new opportunities for organizational change and growth.
- Costs can decrease.
- Increased quality can be achieved.
- Payback can be provided to someone within the organization.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Try to push off the smaller items until after the core value has been achieved.
- 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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