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Monday, October 18, 2021

Managing Negative Stakeholders- A Psychosocial Analysis

  • Kazi Saiful Hoque CBAP, PMP

In time identification and management of negative stakeholders of any project initiative undertaken to bring changes in the working environment or social environment very often appear to be challenging to both Business Analyst and Project Managers. Negative Stakeholders usually start opposing the initiative throughout the life cycle of the project. In bigger environment, those negative stakeholders, if their objectives are not properly addressed right from the very inception of an initiative can demonstrate not only individual negative attitude but also influence collective raising of voice against implementation of any project initiative. Such attitude and behavior may stand as a big barrier between success and failure.

Now, it is really important to identify who are these negative stakeholders and to analyze their characteristics as well as which conditions or factors really work behind their negative role. As a business Analyst and a project manager, I have to work with such negative stakeholders while implementing change management (Technology based) projects in the corporate environment and construction, infrastructure and other projects in Public sector and individual level.  These negative stakeholders are reluctant to provide any requirement and counterproductive during project implementation time. I found really challenging if not their Psycho- social setup is properly analyzed.

It has been observed that in an implementation/ upgrading of ERP project or any technology based capacity building projects the user groups, among the internal stakeholders in most cases are the negative stakeholders. In the utility and public sector infrastructure projects, individual or group who are affected or likely to be affected or perceived to be affected are the negative stakeholders among external stakeholders.

This is a very usual behavior of working individuals is to resist any change without going deep into the subject  or thinking from 360 degree angle . They like to remain inequilibrium of operational comfort and their current level of skill/ individual capability. This perceive equilibrium is the outcome of their working with a state of technology/ environment for significant amount of time and this psychological setup influences  intellectual and emotional and other faculties of an individual to work against any change resulting his/ her negative behavior. Furthermore, most individual suffers from some degree of psychological crisis while encountering any change in working and social environment.

On the other hand affected individuals specially the users become afraid because they think that implementation of that particular project will 1) make their skill and knowhow obsulate,2) Will bring efficiency in the operational process and many of them may be  treated surplus and may result in losing the job. 3) Afraid of losing productivity  perceiving the new system/ environment difficult  to operate or  proper training on the new system may  not be available at the right time 4) Suffer from psychological crisis to adjust in a  working environment and with new technology or operational methods

Stakeholders support is crucial for a project success. Experienced business Analyst and project Manager can make a rough idea of probable negative stakeholders and can devise appropriate strategies to communicate with those stakeholders before a project is being chartered so that identification and management of stakeholders including negative stakeholders become easy.

Before undertaking the project at the time of Enterprise analysis and Capability gape assessment, Business Analyst can chalk out the affected area and the affected stakeholders who may adversely react to the change. Facilitated session and focus group can be arrange with those identified stakeholders to clearly inform them the corporate objectives of bringing the proposed technology change and how this change will bring benefit to their operation and individual career, how the change will align with their individual career objectives and how the proposed change will be implemented and training and transfer of technology will performed. This effort will eliminate uncertainty and wrong perception from their mind and will release the psychological pressure. More than one facilitated session may be required to bring consensus and support in favor of the proposed project.

Similar to the Project Kick off meeting, after project Management Plans are signed – off a Project Charter signing ceremony/ meeting may be arranged in which all the stakeholders specially all identified negative stakeholders must present. Open floor discussions may be facilitated to inform all of the benefits of the initiated project in the strategic level as well as individual level and top management support to be committed to eliminate probable operational discomforts.

Among the negative stakeholders “Leader and Follower” relationship exists and influence in collaborative opinion making. In some case it was observed that few negative stakeholders in the user level raise voice against any proposed or ongoing project and many other follows without analyzing or thinking twice. These leaders can be managed by giving closer attention at every phase of a project lifecycle so as to buy in their supportive opinion

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