Tag Archives: lessons learned

Stakeholder communications – lessons learned

Stakeholders play a huge role in projects and effective communication is key to success, working closely with the team to ensure we are all singing from the same song sheet.

So why do so many not talk about their stakeholders in their CV? Your CV is the first piece of communication a hiring manager sees from you, by omitting detail about arguably one of the most important aspects of your role from the CV you are selling yourself short.

Let’s take a look at the fundamentals of stakeholder engagement:

  • Establishing who your stakeholders are – once engaging in a new project it is important to understand who your stakeholders are and list them in order of importance to the project.
  • Create a communications plan – work with your stakeholders to schedule in regular contact, understand their other commitments and set up a style which fits with this.
  • Honesty – don’t hide major issues from your stakeholders, talk about them and provide tangible solutions. You aren’t doing anyone any favours by keeping them in the dark, being upfront but constructive is essential.


Adding this kind of detail alongside some context such as stakeholder locations, involvement and difficulties (yes we have all dealt with tricky customers), you can really start adding value to your CV. It is the anomalies and how you manage them which really start to set you apart from your peers in the field.

I have seen far too many CVs which place all the emphasis on the projects and none on how you work – yes, we want to know what the projects are but remember the CV is about you so we also want to see how you work. Simply listing a string of skills just doesn’t cut it with employers, actually adding in detail about what this means in your role is where you really add value. Forgetting the stakeholders is not giving the right impression and this is the first impression, so work on creating a CV which is inclusive and really tells the reader about you.

Bonfires and Fireworks

Happy Guy Fawkes to you all – not breaking with tradition I would like to tie in today’s blog to the theme of bonfire night.

Remember remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot…

A poem brought about after Guy Fawkes was put on trial in 1606 for treason having been caught in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with several dozen barrels of gunpowder and subsequently found guilty, which saw him hung, drawn and quartered. The poem was served as a reminder to the next generations regarding treason and the tradition has evolved with time, to include rather fantastic firework displays etc.

A powerful and emotive story which despite its age has certainly played a huge part in our lives over the years – if only we could be as effective in the workplace for lessons learned. Time and time again I have worked with project managers to programme directors who tell me stories of woe from managing pieces of work which would have greatly benefitted from the lessons learned log. This document has been either ignored / not completed or hidden away like it is a bad thing because it highlights where we went wrong. Of course it also highlights the good too but attitude seems to be that if we pretend the bad bits weren’t there now we’ve completed a project then it didn’t happen – then low and behold, history repeats itself.

Now I am not suggesting we have a bonfire and burn all the confidential waste every time we learn something but surely we are at a point where it makes sense to drag out and dust down the lessons learned log for projects similar in complexity etc. each time a new project is being scoped and particularly when it is being planned.

Here’s a poem which you could adapt for your project team:

Remember remember the project of last September

Stakeholders lost all respect,

I see no reason why lessons learned should be tossed

Or ever not be kept…

Blatantly I was never meant to be a poet but you get the idea – maybe adopting something in the office which reminds all to revisit times passed to better understand how to do things more efficiently moving forward could save a lot of time, money and energy.

Communication and interpretation

Communication is the most important element to success in both personal and work environments – yet it tends to take a back seat, why is this? In relationships often when they break down it is because we don’t talk to each other, only when we hitting breaking point do we sit down and start to share our thoughts. Having managed multiple concurrent projects across a number of globally based manufacturing sites I learnt early on that open communication had to be enforced to ensure successful delivery and effective contingency planning. Interpretation can be a big player here – in my situation there were the language and cultural barriers, asking for a status update from Germany often yielded responses of “we have not set up the tooling up until now”. This would indicate that they have just set up the tooling – actually this means that they haven’t set it up at this point, a language translation which could be catastrophic to a project if you were to action the next stage of the project when the site was not ready. However I have come across similar issues within the UK and with the USA, to overcome these I learnt fast what the technical teams were actually trying to communicate and made sure every teleconference and meeting was followed up with clear email communication which required a sign off from each individual and also designed a software package which required sign off at each stage from heads of the manufacturing sites before the next stage could be released.

How many times have you called and emailed someone for an update on something only for no reply to be made? How many times have you “parked” an email as you do not have any news? Often the reason for not replying is that you want to be able to give good news and demonstrate your effectiveness but in fact you are doing the opposite to this. One thing which has become ingrained in my working process is to make sure I respond to all calls and emails, even if I have no news yet. By simply responding and stating that you haven’t forgotten and that you are chasing it up – you can ensure you are gaining trust and alleviating any frustrations at the other end. It’s not very time consuming and will help build a strong relationship with others as you are not deemed as ignoring them.