VIE WPOIN TS
CLOSE TO HOME
When a flood drives her from her house, our columnist finds her finely
honed stakeholder management skills come in handy.
BY SHEILINA SOMANI, FAPM, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Displaced from my home by a flood, I’ve been reviewing lessons learned as I plan my fam- ily’s move back. From a risk-management perspective, I
was all good. I was fully insured and my important
papers were protected and easily accessible. Small
items of value could be quickly removed, and my close
friends were able to take in my child.
Then reality began to sink in. I was faced with
numerous stakeholders and decision-makers who all had the ability to
speed or slow the project to return
back home. And I had no official
project management title or role to
fall back on.
The stakeholders included: insurance representatives, loss adjusters,
drying specialists, cleaners, build-ers, electricians, removal companies, renovators, family, friends,
neighbors, police, water and supply
companies, and the local council.
Then there were ancillary people,
such as credit card representatives,
bank employees, and business and
All these stakeholders to manage—
and I had to continue running two large projects at work
and be a parent.
n Documentation: Track correspondence and dates,
Much at Stake
and ask all critical questions in writing (leaving an
audit trail as a result).
n Honesty and openness: Declare a lack of knowledge
up front and ask for patience as people explain the
n Sense of scope: No one precious to me was
hurt, which means the project details are relatively
The project to return home is going to be long, but I
am determined. While each stakeholder has an inter-
est in the project, only I have a passion in ensuring
its timely conclusion. I’ve been able to apply several
project management skills toward that end:
n Communication: Treat people courteously. Ask
many questions and seek continuous clarification,
provide feedback—and then ask more questions.
n Organization: Monitor who relates to whom and
how each group interacts.
As an experienced project manager, I have the skills to recognize
the differing goals and drivers of
the stakeholder groups, and the
need to communicate in terms of
win-win approaches for everyone.
The challenge is to keep everyone focused on our need to return
home, and do so without becoming an irritant. Because I try to be
respectful of the various skills of the
people who surround me, they’re
more willing to share their expertise. This has been invaluable to me
as a novice in a crisis.
By April, we’ll be halfway
through what is likely to be a
10-month project. It has taken a
significant mental, physical emotional and, of course,
financial toll on us, but my experience as a project
manager has helped reduce the stress.
In my personal and professional circles, I employ
project management skills regularly with humor and
confidence. But never have they been more useful than
over the past few months—giving me at least some
semblance of sanity when I’m surrounded by so much
Sheilina Somani, FAPM, PMP, is the
owner of U.K.-based Positively Project
Management, which provides consulting,
mentoring and development services.