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11 MARCH 2013
How do you say “no” to an important stakeholder?
A Very Tricky Two-Letter Word
Many studies, including PMI’s 2013 Pulse of the ProfessionTM, have reported that effective communication to stakeholders is the most critical success factor in project management. One of the most critical and tense moments for a project manager is to communicate to a stakeholder that his or her request may not work as planned. The question of “how to say no” produced a record of close to 100 responses in a discussion on the PMI Career Central LinkedIn Group. The most popular philosophy is to carefully position the “no” as a “yes,” and work with ...view middle of the document...
Oliveira, MBA, PMP, a seven-year project management veteran from Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Options and Consequences A well-executed project charter with governance authority can make saying “no” easy, notes Mark Palmquist, CDP, PMP, who has managed construction projects for 20 years in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. “But saying no is not necessary if the project manager offers to help guide the stakeholder’s request through the change management process. This makes it a project issue, not a personal issue.” “I gently push back on the stakeholders. I give them a warm smile and a promise to consider the request,” says Glenn Hasbrouck of San Jose, California, USA, a 10-year IT project management veteran. “Meanwhile, I ask them to provide a sponsor, business justification and preliminary scope of work. Most of the time, the
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stakeholder will not be interested in the extra work and will drop the request.” If not, either the stakeholders provide the extra budget or they say no “and I get to continue to be the good guy.” But Be Careful An important thing to remember when saying “no” to a stakeholder is culture. “Different cultures (both international and organizational) will play major parts in the acceptance of a “no,” says Justin Fitzgerald, a project manager who has worked in the orthopedic industry for four years, from Shannon, Ireland. “Be sure to understand the [stakeholder’s power] prior to embarking on a strategy for changing a stakeholder’s mind.” How you say “no” depends on the stakeholder’s personality, says Charanjeet Singh, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, who has been managing projects for five years. “If you are dealing with someone who...