Hello readers and welcome back to our project management career series. As some of you are aware, we are gradually coming to the end of our project management career series. This series is focused on helping you prepare for a change of job or an interview either as a project manager or a project team member.

PMP Training – Resources (Intense)

In case you missed any of our previous series, why not use the links below to check them out:

In our article today, we will discuss the project stakeholder management knowledge area and explore probable interview questions that could arise from the stakeholder’s management knowledge area during a project management interview. As usual, we will provide practical ways of answering these questions.

A stakeholder is anyone that can impact or be impacted by a project. The project stakeholders are so important that the actions or inactions of some stakeholders can determine the success or failure of a project. For those of us who are not aware, after recognizing the importance of stakeholders on projects, the project management institute (PMI) recently added the stakeholders’ management to the knowledge areas thus increasing the knowledge areas to 10.

While not all stakeholders has the same level of influence on a project, it is the duty of the project manager to identify, classify and manage the stakeholders in a way that would ensure the success of the project.

Below are prospective project stakeholders’ management questions you can expect when interviewing for the position of a project manager.

Q: Differentiate between a stakeholder and a shareholder

A: – These are two different words that are sometimes interchanged but should not be as they have two different meanings:

  • * A shareholder (also known as stockholder) is anyone who owns stock in an organization.
  • * A shareholder is anyone who has an interest or is affected by the output of a project. Shareholders include the workers, consumers, competitors, government officials, etc.

Note: All shareholders are stakeholders, but not all stakeholders are shareholders in a project.

Q: Explain the classification models that can be used for stakeholders’ analysis.

A: There are various classification models that can be used for stakeholder analysis but the four mentioned below are the most popular ones:

  • Power / Interest grid – This groups the stakeholder based on their level of authority (power) and their level of concern (interest) on the project.
  • Power / Influence grid – This is similar to the power interest grid. It groups the stakeholder based on their level of authority (power) and their rate of active involvement (influence) in the project.
  • Influence / impact grid – Classifies the stakeholders based on their level of active involvement (influence) and their ability to effect changes on the project (impact)
  • Salience model – These categorizes the shareholders based on their ability to impose their will (power), immediate need for attention (urgency) and how appropriate their involvement in the project is (legitimacy).

Different categories of stakeholders require different level of relationships and the classification is the first step in determining the appropriate strategy to be adopted by the project manager.

Q: After your stakeholders’ analysis, one of the stakeholders who has high power and high interest disagrees with a part of the project. How would your handle this situation?

A: from the question above, it is evident that the power / interest grid in classifying the stakeholders since this stakeholder falls in the high power and high interest grid, he should be managed closely. This is because any decision made by this type of stakeholder would definitely have an effect on the outcome of the project. In scenarios like this, it is important for you to listen to and understand the stakeholders’ argument, analyze them and see if he has a superior point. If you are convinced you have a better point, you have to find a way to convince the stakeholder. Stakeholders in these categories are always highly ranked for example project sponsor hence stakeholder buy-in is very important. Convincing the stakeholder can be achieved by using another highly ranked stakeholder.

Q: Describe the various levels of stakeholders’ engagement in a project.

A: The stakeholder engagement is important throughout the project life cycle. The engagement level varies for various stakeholders and can be classified into the following levels:

  • Unaware – these set of stakeholders are unaware of the project and the potential impact.
  • Resistant – these set of stakeholders are aware of the project and potential impact but are resistant to change.
  • Neutral – These set of stakeholders are indifferent about the project and the potential impact of the project.
  • Supportive – The supportive stakeholders are aware of the project, its potential impacts and would help the project achieve its goal in whichever way they can.
  • Leading – These stakeholders are aware of the project and its potential impact and are actively engaged in ensuring the success of the project.

The various project stakeholder engagement is documented graphically using the stakeholder engagement matrix. The stakeholder engagement matrix shows the desired (D) engagement level of a stakeholder vis-à-vis the current (C) engagement level. In situations where the desired and the current engagement levels are different, the project manager should devise a technique of moving the stakeholder from their current level to the required level.

Q: Why is conflict management a necessary technique in stakeholder management?

A: Conflict can be defined as a state of disagreement, disharmony or incompatibility between persons, ideas or interests. Stakeholders are people of different backgrounds, beliefs and ideologies and it is nearly impossible for all stakeholders to agree unanimously to an idea. Conflicts are bound to occur during decision-making processes. Conflict management becomes an important tool in stakeholder management as it helps the project manager in settling disputes that occur among stakeholders. It is also important to note that a large part of project failure is not a result of technical incapacity of the project organization, but as a result of the inability of project organizations / manager to resolve conflict within the project stakeholders.

Q: At what stage in the project is the stakeholders’ ability to influence the project the highest?

A: It is always easier for a project to be influenced at the beginning as it becomes increasingly difficult and almost impossible to alter the cause of action as a project nears completion. This is also a reason why a proper stakeholder’s analysis must be carried out and stakeholders’ carried along. Note – The cost of carrying out a proper stakeholders analysis is always cheaper than the cost of pacifying an aggrieved stakeholder especially when they are not duly informed about the project.

INTERVIEW PREPARATION

As we begin to wrap up our career series, it is important we begin to focus on other factors that should be taken into consideration when preparing for an interview. A successful interview requires more than knowing the technical answer alone; your composure, attitude, general knowledge, language, communication and ability to work as part of a team is important to the organization.

It is normal to get nervous and jittery during an interview (everybody gets nervous), but this should be well managed and should not be allowed to influence your interview negatively. A comprehensive article will be written on how to prepare for a successful interview, but for now, focus on the nuggets below.

Independent Research – Always carry out your independent research on the organization you are applying to. What product do they make, what role are you applying for, what is their organizational philosophy? All these will help give you relevant industry and organizational examples when answering the interview questions.

Dress Appropriately – The way you dress is the way you will be addressed. An easy way to know what to wear is carrying out a quick research on the organizational culture. While it might be decent attending a Facebook or Google interview with a shirt and a pair of jeans, you would be require to be suited up when attending an interview for J.P Morgan or KPMG.

Know your worth – There’s a thin line between being confident and being cocky. Never cross the line. It is important you know your worth. Emphasize your strengths and have in place strategies to counter your weaknesses.

That’s all we have for today. In our next article, we will wrap up the project management career series with the project integration management interview questions. Thanks for reading and as usual, if you have any questions or comments, write it in the comment box below.