To keep key stakeholders onside and supportive of a project then all communication with them needs to be in a language and format designed to continue to engage them.
To do this you will need to identify the “consequences” of the project to them
In sales, you are taught to identify the Features, Functions and Benefits of a product to a customer, then to go sell them the Benefits. For Project Managers, this process needs to go one step further.
Beyond the Benefits, what are the “Consequences” of completing the project? That is, what will be the impact to the stakeholder and on the stakeholder, of having the project completed? Once you have identified the consequences of the project to them, then all your communication to them will be in the language of consequences.
For example; Imagine for moment a world of cups with no handles – the handle has not yet been invented. Suppose for a moment that your new project is to put a handle on a cup – the first handle ever! The Feature of this newly designed cup is the curved attachment on the side i.e. the handle. Its Function is as a holding mechanism. The benefit of the handle is that it allows you to easily hold the cup without spilling the contents – a wonderful benefit indeed. The Consequences of this benefit are the real key to selling it. The Consequences of the handle are that; Clients can now drink hot liquids in a cup without getting burnt from spills, Clients can drink hot liquids from a cup without spilling and ruining their clothes, Restaurants can serve drinks without the drinks getting spilt on white table clothes thereby reducing the cleaning bill, and so on – all from a simple handle.
Coming back to your particular project, there are a few simple creative steps to identify the consequences;
The easiest way is to create a four column table;
Head up column one, “Project Features”, and in this column list all of the features of the project that are relevant, (and frankly completely irrelevant) e.g. For a building project – list the building height, number of stories, car parking spaces, likely market, tenants, landscaping etc
Head up column two with the title “Functions”; and for each feature already identified, list all the associated functions that is; what does the feature actually do?
Give column three the title "Benefits" and list of that benefits of the each feature and function, e.g. Views, return on investment, increase in community interactivity etc
For column four which is the most important of all. Head up this column with the title "Consequences”. Identify what are the consequences to the stakeholder of each of the features, functions and benefits as we did previously with the cup handle. Note that the consequences should always be written from the stakeholders’ or clients perspective – not yours.
If you are unsure about the consequences of your particular project, then it may actually be useful to talk to the stakeholders and ask them! Most people are open with opinions and this is a good first step in building a successful relationship with them.
Once you have your list of consequences, all your letters, emails, documents and general communications to the stakeholders can refer to the consequences, and how useful your project will be in solving their problems. This regular and gentle reminder of why you are undertaking the project in the first place will surely win you friends and will certainly influence people to your side.
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