Category Archives: Rick’s Series

9 Costly Mistakes – Project Portfolio Management Implementations

Implementing a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution into your organisation is a BIG DEAL – and like with most big deals, the rewards can be vast, but so can all of the various pitfalls you need to avoid before getting there.

If you are new to PPM, or already have a PPM process and are considering implementing a supporting PPM tool, here’s a list of 9 costly Project Portfolio Management implementation mistakes you should avoid making.

Let’s get right into them:

Mistake 1:

Confusing PPM with technology solutions or other concepts

If you are new to PPM, don’t make the mistake of assuming that by going out and getting a PPM solution from a vendor, that you will be able to do PPM out the box across your organisation.

It’s important to understand the difference between having a PPM Process that enables you to determine which projects should be in your portfolio vs. having a PPM Software System to make managing the processes and projects easier.

Having a tool in place that is capable of doing PPM – does not translate to your organisation actually performing PPM.

Another misconception is that PPM is just the management of projects in itself. There’s a whole bunch of processes, governance, and other stuff you need to do before even being able to perform basic PPM in any meaningful way.

Project Portfolio Management or “PPM” is a set of practices, processes and governance that brings projects into tight integration with business operations, by aligning projects to business strategy and business objectives.

If you are considering implementing PPM within your organisation for the first time, a really good read is: Project Portfolio Management: A Practical Guide to Selecting Projects, Managing Portfolios, and Maximizing Benefits by Harvey A. Levine.

Mistake 2:

Being foggy about the Business Drivers

Being even a little foggy on what your PPM drivers are, is a recipe for disaster further down the road.

You need to have a crystal clear understanding of exactly what is driving your business to adopt a PPM solution. This core understanding is the seed that will spout new processes, organisational change, reprioritisation of work, shift capital budgets, create new roles and responsibilities etc.

This core understanding will also keep you and your team focused and grounded on delivering the required primary requirements and functionality of the PPM solution that the business expects, rather than start focusing on secondary aspects that won’t add much value.

Questions that need to be asked are:

  • What are the primary business drivers for the adoption of a PPM solution?
  • What are the primary benefits that the business expects?
  • What’s the vision of PPM within the organisation?

Be sure to continually communicate and reiterate these both to your team members and stakeholders to help ensure continued alignment throughout the implementation.

Some of your business drivers for a PPM system may be as follows:

  • Ability to prioritise projects based on business requirements
  • Improve resource and capacity optimisation
  • Increase strategy execution and alignment
  • Better leverage of opportunities
  • More accurate financial tracking of projects and portfolios
  • Increase visibility and accountability

Key benefits the business may expect are as follows:

  • Increased profits / cost savings
  • Improved allocation of resources
  • Working on the right projects
  • Spending in the right areas
  • Quicker reaction to business opportunities
  • Better aligning projects to strategy
  • Reduction in the number of poor projects

Mistake 3:

Lack of C-Level Support

If you are implementing an IT PPM Solution, you need 100% of the CIO’s support. If your scope is across various business units or across all of the business, you need 100% CEO’s support along with the other top executives, with support and backing filtering down.

PICTURE THIS – You have been tasked with implementing a small PPM solution across some of the organisations business units. It’s not a very large implementation with respect to user numbers. The primary business driver is to improved resource utilisation across the organisation. Sounds easy?

Ok, here is a translation of how some of those business units may interpret PPM in an adverse way:

  • Improved resource utilisation means we will now have to compete for resources to get the job done, my budget may be cut and there may even be potential job losses  🙁
  • Time and effort to learn something new  🙁
  • Having to deal with all the complexities and issues of instituting new processes  🙁
  • Extra ongoing work to input quality data into the system for resources that are already stretched  🙁

Don’t underestimate the level of change that an adoption of a PPM system can bring to an organisation and the backing and support you will need time and time again to help overcome resistance to change and potentially a new way to do things.

PPM is an initiative that must start from the top in order to be successful.

Mistake 4:

Having weak PPM Processes

Without any strong PPM processes, managing any portfolio of projects – even in a basic sense – will prove difficult and frustrating if not impossible.

A considerable amount of thought and effort should be put into formulating processes that suit your organisation and its culture to maximise the benefits of your PPM implementation.

Here are some steps you can take to start defining or strengthening some of the processes your PPM implementation will need.

STEP 1 – Vision

A good place to start is with the vision – what’s the vision of PPM within the organisation? If you don’t know where you want to ultimately get to, what hope do you have of actually getting there? Make sure you don’t confuse “vision vs mission” like I sometimes do.

STEP 2 – Setting Measurable Objectives

What are the measurable objectives that your organisation has to consider PPM successful? Areas of focus may be around speed, value, governance, etc. – if so, what’s the measure? Consider using the S.M.A.R.T method for creating these objectives.

Creating measurable benefits sets you up to have the ability to determine the effectiveness of your PPM implementation overtime on a measurable basis, as well as determine which areas need improvement.

STEP 3 – Define Process Scope

This step gets into the details of your process. Questions to ask include:

  • What’s the scope with respect to types of projects?
  • Which business units will be included in the scope?
  • Which people will be involved – who owns/uses the process, etc.?
  • What information is required and who delivers it?
  • What’s the result expected at the end of the process?

STEP 4 – Define the Process

  • Work with the relevant stakeholders within each of the business units to best determine how the processes will work
  • Create the process diagrams and any relevant documentation
  • Obtain necessary sign-off

STEP 5 – Test the process

  • Run test cases and scenarios to test the integrity of your processes
  • Adjust processes as required

STEP 6 – Deploy

  • When testing is complete, you are ready to deploy the process

STEP 7 – Monitor and improve

  • Monitor usage and collect key performance indicators to determine how well the processes are meeting the objectives that were defined.

Having a strong PPM process is the lifeblood of successful Project Portfolio Management.

Mistake 5:

Having a Poor Governance

You can’t really perform PPM without any proper governance to back it. To picture it a little easier, consider that the management of a portfolio of projects should be similar to the management of a portfolio of investments.

Would you trust a fund manager that picked investments based on gut-feeling and impulse with your money?

Let’s do a closer comparison:

The goal of the fund manager would be to:

  • Select the most profitable portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other investments based on the goals of that particular fund and against ROI potential and risk tolerances.Monitoring of those investments would enable the fund manager to cut losses on poorly performing investments, whilst reallocating capital to those investments that provided greater ROI.

By the same analogy, the goal of your PPM solution is to:

  • Select the best set of projects based on the particular goals of the organisation, potential ROI, risk tolerances and other criteriaContinuous monitoring and visibility of the performance of projects would allow the organisation cut losses early, whilst reallocating capital to more profitable initiatives.

So, your PPM governance process needs to define some of the following:

  • When are decisions made?
  • How is agreement reached?
  • Who needs to be involved in decisions?
  • How is risk reviewed?
  • What other criteria effects decision making?
  • How are projects formulated?
  • How are projects prioritised?
  • How are projects funded?
  • Who monitors and tracks project implementation?

Just as you would expect a fund manager to apply a certain level of governance before choosing investments for their portfolio, the same should apply to your portfolio of projects.

Mistake 6:

Purchasing the PPM application tool first

There are a great number of PPM tools that are highly configurable in the sense that you can configure the application to work with your organisations processes – so what’s the problem with purchasing the tool first?

The problem is that different PPM tools and applications from different vendors have different strengths and weaknesses in different areas. Without understanding your requirements, you cannot determine which tool is best to use.

A solution from one vendor may have significant strengths in Project Portfolio Scenario Planning whilst another vendor may have a solution with significant strengths in Financials and Forecasting.

Once you have your requirements and associated process properly defined, you will then be in a much better position to assess which vendor provides the best solution to meet those requirements.

Mistake 7:

Adopting an Imposed-PPM System

Be very cautious about having a PPM tool imposed from internally within the organisation such as from the IT Department, especially if you are implementing PPM across various business units or the entire organisation. It is akin to the previous point of purchasing a PPM application tool first, before even starting the project and considering requirements.

From the position of an IT Department, they would not be doing a good job if they did not put up valid arguments for their PPM tool such as:

  • We already have licenses for a PPM tool
  • RFPs / RFTs can take months and are very costly to perform, we already have the tool
  • The tool is on our roadmap
  • Our tool is the most cost effective solution
  • It’s part of the application suite that integrates with our key systems such as ERP
  • Integrating yet another system will prove very costly
  • The tool will, at the very least, meet with all the core requirements

This is one of the cases where the business’s resolve for a successful PPM system will be tested – how can you navigate around this?

One way is to bring it all down to where your business wants to allocate risk:

  1. Does the business want to increase the risk that the PPM solution will be mediocre and may be a failure – in favour of achieving the advantages of the imposed solution? OR
  2. Does the business want to increase the risk of not having the advantages of the imposed solution – in favour of increasing the chances that the PPM solution will be embraced and successfully meet business requirements and achieve ROI?

If your business wants to maximise the chances that PPM will be adopted and work within the organisation, then you need to pit your business requirements and associated processes against a host of potential viable tools – including the imposed solution.

You will then be in a good position to determine if the imposed solution is viable to use, or if there is something major that is lacking that warrants using another vendor’s solution.

Mistake 8:

Considering a Big Bang Implementation

Don’t get pressured into believing that a “Big Bang Implementation” will provide you with a successful PPM system that your organisation will love and enjoy.

You cannot expect to have a fully-fledged solution working on par with the efficiency of a well-tuned investment portfolio – implemented across your business over one weekend – it’s unrealistic. Additionally, doing too much too soon can easily overwhelm your organisation and prove too much of a big change to do all at once.

Instead, consider a well phased more agile “CRAWL, WALK, RUN” implementation strategy that focuses on maximising user adoption as well as and achieving some intended benefits.

Your implementation strategy should also take into account where your organisation is with respect to PPM maturity. Have a look at Gartner’s “Five Progressive Levels of the Maturity Model” for PPM and determine a good roadmap for your organisation.

Depending on the size and complexity of your organisation, making the transition from Level 2 to a Level 5 can be a journey that takes a number of years.

Mistake 9:

Forgetting the human element

It’s easy to get so caught up with processes, governance procedures and systems that you forget all about the human element. You can have the best system and processes in place, however it’s all worthless if everyone hates it and no one wants to use it.

DON’T NEGLECT YOUR USERS – they are the other half of the equation that will make your PPM system a success.

Here’s a list of things to watch out for:

  • PROCESSES: If you over complicate these, no one will want to use them – keep it simple.
  • TECHNOLOGY: User adoption is your best friend – No one likes using systems that are difficult to use and non-intuitive, no matter how smart those systems are or what they can do.
  • RESULTS: Don’t go too long without showing any results, both interest and support will wane – no one wants to back something that’s not producing results.
  • THEORY: Don’t get too sucked into the theory, people love to see practical application. Seeing is really believing.
  • CHANGE: Don’t do too much too quickly – everyone learns how to crawl and walk before they can run.
  • TRAIN: Skimping on training translates to people skimping on the system.
  • CHAMPION: Nominate local champions – people don’t like going too far for help.
  • CULTURE: Design the solution to be the path of least resistance for people – otherwise, they’ll continue using the path of least resistance.
  • CONTINUOUS-IMPROVEMENT: No one expects a solution to be perfect from the start – however people get quickly annoyed if nothing is ever done to improve the system.
  • SUCCESS: Communicate PPM success within the organisation. Everyone wants to be part of something that’s successful.


PPM when implemented properly can create immense value to your organisation and although there are many pitfalls and mistakes to be made – what’s important is how you recover and move ahead to reach your goal.

You may also like:- Dealing with Difficult People in Project Management – 8 aspects you may not be considering

About Rick Ktorides, Senior Project Manager

Rick Ktorides is a Senior Project Manager/Consultant who has successfully delivered a wide variety of complex projects across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America to business end-users across various levels and industry verticals.

As Frontline’s Senior Project Manager, Rick offers project management services to our customers across Application, Development and Infrastructure Projects.

Connect via LinkedIn

Is Your Company Rubbish at Projects? – (problem may not be where you think)

“We are just not so good at doing projects – can you provide a good project process diagram?”, asked a close friend of mine recently who sits on a board of a small/medium sized enterprise.

I asked him what he wanted to do with it – he mentioned it was for their project managers. His company was taking on larger clients which translated to larger projects.

The problem he said was that they probably were not following good process as projects never seemed to end and were not ultimately producing desired results.

Further he mentioned, there was never any meaningful information coming out of these projects that could be discussed at board level and the information they did have was just too into the weeds.

OK – here was my thought process:

  • 1st thing to come to mind: – “Process diagram – Ha – too easy!!”
  • 2nd thing to come to mind: – “OK errrr…where should I start???”
  • 3rd thing to come to mind: – “Can I really provide a single and effective project management process for a company I know nothing about? I could provide a simple project life-cycle process, but what about Risk Management, or Quality Management Processes? Which processes should I include / not include?”
  • 4th thing to come to mind: – “Do I just hand them a PRINCE2 manual??”
  • 5th thing to come to mind: – “Perhaps they just did not hire the right people?”
  • 6th thing to come to mind: – “Will just handing any process diagram – no matter how good it is – really work?”
  • 7th thing to come to mind: –“Can I really help here at all?”

Eager to help my friend out, I pondered over the next couple of days how I would approach this and started to consider that perhaps the problem is not where we think.

I responded with the following email:

—– Start of email —–

Subject: RE: Project Manager stuff – this may help

Have been thinking and perhaps rather than provide a process diagram of how to manage projects (and in effect trying to teach Project Managers how to manage projects), the best approach maybe is to set governance at the Executive Level that will drive the required project management process required by the company and ultimately the results you want.

Is this what’s missing?

Consider doing the following:

  • Nominate one of the Executives to act as a somewhat “Project Director” for the projects being run.
  • To kick things off, the newly nominated Project director will set a 30 min to 1 hour catch-up each week with each of the Project Managers and go through pertinent items important to the organisation.

The following is a list of prompters:


  • What deliverables are we delivering for this project?
  • Which deliverables have been completed and which are outstanding?
  • To what standard do these deliverables need to be and has this been agreed with the client?

Customer (can be either internal or external):

  • Who is the customer that will benefit from this project?
  • What is the name of the person that will sign-off on the deliverables?
  • Is that person being kept up-to date with project progress?
  • Have we locked in and got sign-off from the customer with respect to their requirements, as well as quality, cost and schedule expectations?
  • Has the customer defined what constitutes a successful project? (these need to be in a measurable form)
  • How is the customer feeling about the project and what’s the basis? (e.g. why are they happy or not so happy?)


  • What’s the current agreed schedule?
  • How is the project currently tracking against the agreed schedule? (e.g. are we going to complete the project on time?)
  • If not on schedule why not?


  • What’s current agreed allocated budget for the project?
  • How is the project currently tracking against the allocated budget?
  • If not on budget, why not?


  • Has the scope and boundaries of the project been locked in?
  • Is there a need to extend the scope, or has it been asked that we scope in extra things? (if so, the Project Manager needs to put in a Project Change Request to potentially extend budget and schedule to cater for the extra work required)
  • Has the project already accepted requests to do more, but has not formally agreed this with all pertinent parties and furthermore without asking for extra time or money? (if so, what’s been the impact?)


  • Is the project set to complete the required deliverables to the quality expectations of the customer?
  • Are there any quality risks or issues in relation to what is being delivered? (if so, what are we doing about it?)


  • What are the largest risks the projects have at this point in time?
  • What is the Project Manager doing to mitigate the risks?
  • Are there any issues or road blocks that are preventing the project from moving forward?


  • Who’s who in the project team?
  • Is the project adequately resourced?
  • Are people performing tasks assigned and completing the deliverables agreed?

Project Status Report:

  • Insist that a project status report is submitted at regular intervals e.g. each week or perhaps each fortnight
  • Ensure the status report provides a good high-level summary on how the project is tracking with indicators that both you and your client would want to see on there, such as cost, schedule and output of deliverables, etc.
  • Get the project manager to also publish the report to the client as well as core project team members. That’s one way to help ensure that all parties are on the same page.


  • How is the Project Manager feeling? (are they coping or drowning? / are they confident or unsure?)
  • Is there anything that the Project Director / or the company executive need to do to help ease a project hurdle / risk / issue?

The thing is – if the nominated Project Director sits with the Project Manager each week and sets as mandatory that such information be provided, it will in turn drive the Project Manager to create processes to satisfy this active governance requirement.

Projects cannot run without properly defined limits and boundaries against schedule, budget, quality, scope and expected benefits.

If governance is not set and pro-activity enforced around these from the executive layer downwards, the company simply cannot expect projects to be delivered to the desired standards and outcomes it requires.

It may be a slow painful process at the start, however I can assure you it will improve each week and start paying dividends!

Hope this helps,


—– End of email —–


There are 2 conclusions here – the 1st being that sometimes both the problem and the solution are not where we initially think and that the bigger picture needs to also be considered.

The 2nd conclusion is around governance. Perhaps this is put best by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.(chairman of the board and chief executive officer of IBM from April 1993 until 2002):

“The real mechanism for corporate governance is the active involvement of the owners.”

What scenarios have you been involved in where taking a more active approach to governance has benefited your organisation? 

You may also like:

About Rick Ktorides, Senior Project Manager

Rick Ktorides is a Senior Project Manager/Consultant who has successfully delivered a wide variety of complex projects across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America to business end-users across various levels and industry verticals.

As Frontline’s Senior Project Manager, Rick offers project management services to our customers across Application, Development and Infrastructure Projects.

Connect via LinkedIn

8 Smart Ways to Deal with Difficult People in Project Management

It’s inevitable like death and taxes – every project manager in their career will eventually run into a stakeholder on a project that proves to be a nightmare in some form or another.

Failing to correctly deal with problem stakeholders could easily be the undoing of both the project and its project manager.

Firstly, let’s look at how a stakeholder is defined:

PRINCE2: “Any individual, group or organization that can affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by, an initiative (programme, project, activity, risk).

PMI: “Persons and organizations such as customers, sponsors, performing organization and the public, that are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by execution or completion of the project. They may also exert influence over the project and its deliverables.”

MSP: “Any individual, group or organisation that can affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by, a programme. Any person or entity who can affect an endeavour / project, or be affected by it, or be perceived itself to be affected is a stakeholder.

Here are my 8 tips for dealing with stakeholders that prove to be difficult, problematic, irrational, and in general – a nightmare to work with!

Ok – let’s get into them:

Tip 1: Believe in yourself – you can work through it

It may sound like an old cliché and be the briefest tip on here, but it will get you 50% of the way there.

You must believe that you have it within yourself and that you are committed to working through the problems and issues you have with your nightmare stakeholder.

If you don’t really believe you can work through the issues for any reason, you will indeed most likely fail. Your negative actions and reactions will get you there – think self-fulfilling prophecy.

It starts with YOU!

Tip 2: Change how you perceive them

It’s very easy to have the negative perception that your nightmare stakeholder is out to cause disruption to your project with no regard but to themselves or, even worse that they are out to get you personally.

This may be especially true if they have been attacking your project with borderline insinuations that you may be incompetent.

With this negative perception, you are more likely to formulate a defensive resolution strategy that may resemble the following:

  • I need to be more defensive about the project and my work
  •  > > > so they know I can’t be messed with
  •  I should avoid them whenever it’s possible
  • > > > to avoid confrontation
  • I should provide as little information as possible
  • > > >  so they have less to attack
  • I need to convince others that the stakeholder is of bad character
  • > > >  to try and isolate them
  • With all this…
  • > > > they will come to their senses and quietly align to the project!

Instead, change your negativity and emotional bias towards the stakeholder to a more positive perception.

View the stakeholder as a GOOD INTENTIONED CHALLENGER who believes that they are doing the right thing and are making a case for it the best way they know how.

This is a much better basis for you to start planning how to resolve issues and to move forward with your stakeholder. I know this will be extremely difficult in some circumstances however you will be much better for it.

This attitude will also be seen as a lot more professional, pragmatic and constructive by all the other stakeholders.

Tip 3: Never take it personally – EVER

The moment you start taking whatever problems your stakeholders are throwing at you personally – it’s time to stop and ask yourself if you are really fit to continue running the project.

You will be constantly put off your ‘A’ Game and it’s a downward spiral that can be very difficult to recover from once you get sucked in.

Some early signs that you may be heading down in this direction include urges to reflex respond in kind to emails from the problem stakeholder.

Another is feeling the need to argue with the problem stakeholder in meetings or workshops to prove yourself.

In both cases, all you would be doing is increasing the tension and making the price of resolution more costly, difficult and elusive by adding more emotion into the mix.

Instead, create a space between yourself and your reactions – wait a day or so and when you are ready, respond in order to gain clarification.

Try to master the art of rising above it all and gain the distinct advantage of remaining calm, collected and in full emotionally control in confrontational, irrational or chaotic situations.

The psychology and reasoning behind why you should not take things personally is very well articulated in the The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…”

Tip 4: Don’t ignore them

One of the worst things that you can do is to ignore the stakeholders that are challenging you and your project – especially when they have high influence.

It’s tempting to believe that if you retreat and ignore them that somehow, they will just soften their stance or simply forget it over time. In reality, this very rarely ever happens, if ever.

The matrix below shows you where you should be focusing most of your stakeholder engagement efforts:


Ignoring your High Influence Challengers can put you at a disadvantage in the following ways:

  • They will be left feeling greatly disrespected that you are not doing anything to address their issues – You will also appear to be coming from a position of weakness.
  • They will source information from elsewhere to use and justify their concerns – some of which may not be accurate.
  • Genuine underlying issues that you are not aware of will snowball.
  • They will have cause and opportunity to influence others to their way of thinking and using information they collected – They will do the teaching.
  • You will end up having to justify you and your project’s position on their terms and on a stage that they have prepared and set – rather than on your terms and to your strategy.

Instead make it a primary focus to maximise your stakeholder engagement with both High Influence Champions and especially High Influence Challengers.

Here are the advantages you will have:

  • They will respect that you are taking steps to address and resolve their issues even if they disagree – You will also appear to be coming from a position of strength.
  • They will source information directly from you – and share any information they have with you – you will have great awareness of their information and what they are looking at.
  • You will learn of any new issues you may not have known about first hand rather from others.
  • You will be in a much better position to influence others knowing all the information and the issues – You can do the teaching
  • They will more than likely participate in your resolution strategy which will be on your terms and on the stage that you prepare and set.

Tip 5: Know your position and support

When you are managing political projects with demanding stakeholders, make sure you have the full support of your home team for the direction your project is taking – otherwise you could be setting yourself up for a major fall.

Think: Getting attacked by your own pieces in a game of chess!

So, if you’re a Project Manager working within the IT Department on a difficult project, do you have the full support for your project all the way up to the CIO who will firmly stand behind you?

Or are there several influential skeptics along the way and your CIO seems to waver in their support?

If this is the case, your first priority should be to gain a single agreed and accepted position that your home team can all get behind – before you start dealing with outward stakeholders external to the business unit.

Tip 6: Separate the PERSON from the problem

Your goal here is to reach the point where you and your stakeholder feel as part of the same team – both working together towards solving a common problem without trying to dig each other out of entrenched positions.

You eliminate the counter-productive “Them” vs. “Us” mentality and defensive posturing where issues are entangled with both emotion and ego.

Here are some ways to help you get there:


  • Continually engage and communicate with them.
  • Meet face to face whenever possible.


  • Listen to what they say rather than how they say it.
  • Don’t discredit or play down their emotions or opinions.
  • Always be respectful, even when they try to aggravate or anger you.
  • Confirm your understanding of the issues by repeating back your understanding – this enables you to pull the facts from what is being expressed.


  • Establish what you are both in agreement of, as well as what the sticking points are.
  • The first thing that can be agreed is that the problem or issue your stakeholder has needs to be resolved.
  • Bring it down to basic elements and specifics where possible.
  • Keep the business objectives in focus.

Establish Trust:

  • Establish trust by being truthful, admitting instances you have been wrong and following up on things you agreed to do on time.
  • Seek to maintain and continue a good working relationship regardless of any unresolved differences that may remain.


  • Involve them in the resolution process appropriately and clearly define their role and responsibility.
  • Document and share your meeting minutes with particular focus on what was agreed, the required action items and their time-frames.

Post- Resolution:

  • Maintain frequent communication with your stakeholder regarding the status of the project – this will make them feel as part of the team.
  • Recognise their efforts in the success of your project – this will make it much easier to work together in the future.

By separating the person from the problem, you will also be able to better determine and fix the root cause of the problem.

Root causes you come across may include some of the following:

  • Belief the project has ulterior motives.
  • There is technical reason why it won’t work.
  • Extreme fear of change with an underlying sense of insecurity.
  • Previous bad experience when working on a similar project.
  • Belief that there is a better way to do it.
  • Not being involved early on in the project and feel completely left out.
  • Miscommunication about the project by someone or others / not aware of all the facts.
  • Not being able to understand something and getting lost in the jargon.
  • Don’t want you to scratch the surface to find out something.
  • Strong unresolved personal issues between them and someone on your team.
  • They don’t want to deal with someone new or unproven to them.
  • They don’t believe you can grasp their requirements and issues.
  • It interferes or hinders with their professional ambitions.

Tip 7: Adjust your style and apply some emotional intelligence

In some cases, you may perceive a stakeholder as being difficult and having a major issue – whereas the reality is that it’s a personality clash and difference in communication styles and you’ve built it up to something it’s not.

This is where applying some emotional intelligence and adjusting your communication style can be a major help.

For example, if you’re sending them an email:

  • If your stakeholder is brief, to the point and never seems to have much time to spare, make their life a little easier by also being brief and to the point in your communication. Put what you wish to convey within your first sentence. Don’t add it at the end after an essay of detail and justification you expect them to read.
  • If your stakeholder likes detail and analysis to formulate their own position, then make sure you provide reference to this in your communication – rather than a lack of it.
  • If your stakeholder is not good dealing with emails, then pick up the phone and convey your message verbally or better still, go and see them face to face.

Tip 8: Ask for help

One of the best ways to solve any particular challenging problem is to ask for help from others who have the capability and are in the position to provide it.

Don’t equate asking for help as a failure on your part – instead think of it as an effective strategy in your arsenal to getting problems solved!

As a Project Manager, you should be continually communicating to your Project Board, Programme Manager, Project Director or any other direct reporting authority, the status of your project including any problems that may start arising from stakeholders.

Don’t leave it until the eleventh hour, or after the situation has got out-of-control before communicating up any stakeholder issues to those you need to.

They won’t appreciate being the last to know and in addition having to deal with an inflamed situation they could have easily helped you resolve much earlier on in the process.

Also, choose your battles wisely – don’t try to be a hero and deal with stakeholder holder issues on your own where it may not be appropriate for you to do so, or where it’s beyond your responsibility.

For instance, if you’re an IT Project Manager and you are starting to have problems with the CFO, it would be more appropriate for the CIO to help you resolve the issue at their level – rather than you trying to do so at your level.


Dealing with difficult stakeholders is as much about YOU as it is about THEM.

The first part is about changing your own thinking and perceptions so that you will have the right attributes to execute the second part which entails the actual strategy and processes needed to resolve your difficult stakeholder issues.

What experiences have you had dealing with tough stakeholders – and how did you overcome them?


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About Rick Ktorides, Senior Project Manager

Rick Ktorides is a Senior Project Manager/Consultant who has successfully delivered a wide variety of complex projects across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America to business end-users across various levels and industry verticals.

As Frontline’s Senior Project Manager, Rick offers project management services to our customers across Application, Development and Infrastructure Projects.

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