project stakeholder commitment

Commitment is important in any relationship. It is the value that galvanizes diverse entities so that all can work together unilaterally and seamlessly. Without it, there is no bond and no common purpose. Romantic, familial or even business-wise, commitment is the force that drives the relationship forward, toward a mutually desirable goal that usually points to growth and/or profitability.

Securing commitment is difficult, more so if two parties do not see the carrot at the end of the stick. There are many barriers to securing commitment, and there are many levels of commitment that may not necessarily guarantee a carrot at the end of it, nor parties who will enjoy the rewards.

In business, one can never downplay the importance of stakeholder commitment. The meaning of "stakeholder" is crucial here. It is quite surprising to find multiple meanings of stakeholders in business and in project management, but one catches attention. You may realize that one such definition you have hung on to, based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), could use a more compelling version. In as early as 1963, the Stanford Research Institute defined stakeholders as "those groups without whose support the organization will cease to exist." The core concept, in other words, was "survival" without the support of such key groups, the firm will not survive.

As management guru Stephen Covey succinctly puts it, "Your organization is a complex ecosystem of multiple, interdependent parts both inside and outside its formal boundaries-and your stakeholders are its most important elements."

Considering this, and some organization's reactions to simply ignore stakeholders because managing them is just "too hard," means, "suicidal." The concrete messiness of managing stakeholder commitment has to be accepted as an issue critical to success, even if it is not as sexy as defining the perfect solution or building the new [office] intranet.

Covey adds: "The process of building total stakeholder commitment is challenging. Stakeholders have needs in conflict: Employees want more pay, shareholders want higher dividends, and customers want lower prices and higher service levels. It is difficult for any one stakeholder group – even departments within the same organization – to appreciate or understand each other's needs and how they must all work together to maximize the long-term benefit for all."