Perceiving, knowing, reflecting on and responding to stakeholders’ satisfaction is a complex and artful activity; requiring experience, skilled sense of observation and political savvy-ness.

But, just imagine you could objectively obtain this information, wouldn’t that be a useful – and actionable – thing to know?

Status Indicator 3Think about it!

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  1. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, but when you take measurements, you’ll be expected to use them. I think you could define “satisfaction” for these three roles during the planning stage of a project, and then possibly report plan-to-actual measured satisfaction. The challenge would be defining “satisfaction at mid-stream” in such a way that it would not negatively impact “satisfaction at the end.” I’m not arguing against assessing satisfaction, I’m arguing that we must know what we’ll do with the data points and the trend line beforehand.

    For example: the customer’s satisfaction at the end is likely driven by the quality and timeliness of the final deliverables, whereas the sponsor’s satisfaction will likely be a function of cost and delivered value. But at mid-stream? Can we assess customer satisfaction with WIP in a way that trends meaningfully? Further, if the sponsor is profoundly dissatisfied with cost variances and anticipated ROI, but the customer is deliriously happy, do you take actions to make the sponsor happier at the expense of the customer’s joy?

    I prefer my worms en can, thanks.


    • Hi Dave, thanks for your fair observations.

      So here’s what I think:

      Satisfaction is one of many indications that shed light on dimensions we would loosely term as being ‘soft’. As such, unlike cost & time, it does not need to be 100% accurate and an indicative measure is and should be sufficient. To gauge a level of satisfaction I could easily ask you, as a stakeholder, to fill in a survey and tell me how satisfied you are and why. Certainly, before the project commences we can determine satisfaction threshold so it is clear what range is acceptable and what ranges are not.

      The purpose of presenting this type of reporting (and others I have shown before) is to elicit a discussion around the need to broaden our horizon and get us to focus on soft parameters. As PMs we are equally responsible to keep our team engaged and satisfied (within an acceptable range) just like we are required to deliver within cost and schedule. Those who claim that the team’s welfare is anecdotal to the project’s success simply suggest that their threshold is very low but they cannot suggest it does not exist at all.

      We need to have these conversations because the world is moving on. The introduction of team centric approaches, like Agile, make such discussion critical and, even if they weren’t, even in our existing mode of operations, we need to reintroduce parameters that for many years have been neglected or forgotten.

      Does it make sense?

      Cheers, Shim.


  2. Indeed, your description makes sense. But my question was: what actions do we take? When we determine that we are over budget, or behind schedule, or scope needs to be changed, we have well-established processes to make corrections. Satisfaction, however, is uncharted territory.

    Who is accountable for the satisfaction of the folks in these roles – the PM or the sponsor? Should the charter empower the PM to take specific corrective actions to maintain acceptable satisfaction levels, in addition to the traditional constraints? If the sponsor wants a corrective action taken that will maximize her satisfaction at the expense of the customer’s satisfaction, and the PM disagrees, who can overrule the sponsor? Should we have a satisfaction reserve, like our risk reserve? How should these corrections be accounted for, if expenditures are required? Can they be capitalized? If not, what organization should they be charged to?

    This is a number 10 can, and these are only a few of the worms.


    • All good questions Dave.

      Having a satisfaction indicator (as in this example) will allow for a conversation to take place. If the customer is indicating a low level of satisfaction or the sponsor is indicating a low level of satisfaction we have a starting point for a conversation, for probing and looking for the reasons why. Knowing the reasons will then allow further conversations to be had regarding the corrective actions which, as you correctly suggest, might require the allocation of resources. Low satisfaction can be a result of inappropriate or incomplete communication so this could result in changes to communication strategy, approach and execution. None of the soft indicators can stand on its own without further conversations but without having these indicators in place these conversations might not start on time and will only get realized when it is already too late to save the project.

      And just another point. Within the context of projects we already know how to manage change and manage scope. Should the scope of the project need to adjust as a result of these conversations then we’re back into familiar territory. Managing disagreements or differing points of view between stakeholders are the break and butter of managing projects. Using soft indicators will bring these to the forefront much earlier and allow managing them in an orderly fashion.

      Have I missed out on any other aspects here?

      Cheers, Shim.


  3. I think we agree that the conversations are valuable, and that much of the remediation could turn out to be ordinary PM stuff that we all do on every project. My hesitation is around making this measurement part of a periodic project status report.

    Thanks once again for another stimulating post!


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