The Pyramid of Stakeholders 🔺
And how to communicate project status effectively
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A few weeks ago I run into this great list by Camille Fournier. It is about soft skills every senior engineer needs, and I joked it was so good I had to turn each item into a newsletter article.
It turns out it was no joke — this week I wrote about #13, that is how to communicate project status to stakeholders.
I love this topic because keeping stakeholders in the loop is probably the single most important factor for any project's success. And it is often overlooked, as many people are more comfortable working head-down until results are supposedly delivered.
Or are they?
Communicating with stakeholders often and effectively makes sure we stay on the course and are able to adjust when we drift away from it.
So let's start with the basics — what is really a stakeholder? 👇
Behold, the Stakeholders! 📢
Stakeholder is one of the most abused words in product and engineering. It is a very generic term that refers to any person who has an interest in the project — at any title.
The abuse comes from the fact that these interests can be so different, that there are very few situations where it makes sense to group them together and use stakeholder as an actionable word.
The same mistake is often made in communication: by considering stakeholders as a cohesive group, we are tempted to keep everyone in the loop in the same way. This is bound to fail, for two main reasons:
🔍 Different interests — people are interested in different kinds of status updates.
🗣️ Different languages — people have a different level of understanding of what's going on.
Good communication entirely depends on your capability of tailoring the right message to the right interlocutor, which in turn depends on your understanding of:
What they want to hear from you (interest)
How you can say that effectively (language)
To get both right, let's split stakeholders into a few categories, and give to each their own 👇