diamond-crossingLast month I had the pleasure to work with + 100 Project Managers in Barcelona teaching them about the management of “stakeholders” in their projects as part of their MBA program. The obligatory question was: “Who is always the most important stakeholder in your project? Only 5 of 100 students knew the answer.

A project manager is essentially an orchestrator of work (team) of others. To orchestrate different disciplines he must be a “natural” communicator, capable of encoding and decoding human behavior including their emotions and motivations. To understand another person, it is obviously essential to know and understand oneself before anyone. This makes the Project Manager himself the most important stakeholder. His own emotional intelligence, empathy, attitude, and energy are critical drivers for success.

failingIn this Master Course,  the focus is strictly academic, following the PMBOK. That’s why students do not fully understand the true essence of project management. The reason lies in the PMBOK itself. It addresses the issue of Stakeholder Management superficially in the last chapter (13), dedicating about 20 pages (<4% of the volume of the book). Both its position within the book and its volume and content suggestions to students that managing people is not relevant or important.

Most studies – over several decades – on the success of projects agree that about 70% of all projects fail to deliver against previously fixed objectives as a result of inadequate leadership of people, this is at least a surprising fact. The “mismatch” between the “Body of Knowledge” and this reality is overwhelming and uncorrected for decades.

paradigmChange Management as a remedy?

Globalization, the speed of business and technology changes are finally forcing companies to come up with real solutions for speeding up and sustaining people transitions (in ways of working and collaboration). Change Management is the discipline many companies lately found as palliative help to get their projects work better and achieve objectives. Change Management is no longer a “luxury” version of stakeholder management. Both aim to get people to adapt to change quickly and sustainable and if possible, without disruption or crisis.

So it should be normal by now to find a Change Manager teaming up with a Project Manager and Prosci even suggests the complete integration of the two professions, which has arguments for and against.

Who worked with a Change Manager?

My second question for the students was: Who has worked or is working with a Change Manager or assumes such role? Guess the result? Nobody! None of the 100 students had even heard of this “option”. What such outcome suggests for Spanish business on midterm is easy to imagine if not corrected. What it means for the learning and training of PM students is obvious. You may also ask how this answer would have been if asked to 100 Project Managers in the Oil&Gas industry, in Intelligent Oilfield Projects, digitalization initiatives or new technology deployments. I have a gut feeling about that answer. Let me know what you think.

André Baken