How to Manage Stakeholder Expectations in Only 5 Steps

How to Manage Expectations With Your Stakeholders

Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled in a million directions at once? Everyone wants a piece of you – managers asking for updates, clients asking for changes, teammates needing help. And don’t only get started on some of the questions!

It’s like a daily game of whack-a-mole trying to keep all these stakeholders happy. You answer one, and two more pop up out of nowhere.

As project manager John Doe says, “You can’t be all things to everyone. That was the hardest lesson for me.”

How do you do it all without disappointing someone or biting off more than you can chew?

We’ll admit, in our early days, it felt impossible. We wanted so badly to please everyone that we’d overcommit to keep the peace. Big mistake. One deadline inevitably got pushed back, like a house of cards collapsing. Fingers were pointed in every direction – no one was happy.

Research shows nearly 70% of projects fail due to unrealistic expectations set by stakeholders.

That’s when we realized we needed to get honest about managing expectations. These people may be necessary to the project, but their happiness couldn’t come at the cost of our success or sanity! It took some adjusting, but by leveling with stakeholders upfront instead of telling them what they wanted to hear, things got so much smoother.

This article will share some hard-earned lessons that helped us handle this expectations game. They’ll help you survive the daily stakeholder satisfaction circus without losing your cool or credibility. Please stick with us; you’ll be whacking moles like a pro in no time.

Don’t be a Product Manager Who Ignores Stakeholder Expectations

How Product Manager Ignore Stakehoder Expectation

It’s easy to find plenty of articles online about the importance of managing stakeholder expectations. You’ll see lists of helpful tips, best practices, and frames for implementation. But many overlook a critical hurdle project managers face – the pressure to avoid difficult conversations in the short term.

While keeping stakeholders happy sounds ideal, being a people-pleaser often backfires in the long run. Late projects, budget overruns, and low-quality work result from unrealistic expectations that must be addressed early.

As the leaders of projects, it’s our job to have those tough talks – to outline what is clearly and isn’t feasible instead of telling people what they want to hear. Only then can we come to agreements that set everyone up for success.

Ignoring hurdles or overpromising to dodge conflict is a disservice to our organizations, teams working tirelessly behind the scenes, and, ultimately, the stakeholders themselves. By leveling with them upfront and establishing shared understanding, we can guide projects more smoothly to impactful results everyone is proud of.

The tips in this article focus on having difficult but necessary conversations to proactively manage what matters most to stakeholders and align expectations with ground realities. It’s about doing right by people in the long run, even if it requires difficult discussions in the short term.

Chisel: Your Product Management Solution. Foster transparency and collaboration with integrated work tracking, feedback, and real-time updates. Set and manage expectations openly, connect stakeholders seamlessly, and keep everyone informed with dedicated dashboards and notifications. Navigate expectations successfully with Chisel and achieve your project goals.

Chisel - the premier stakeholder management tool, effortlessly streamlines all management needs
Chisel – the premier stakeholder management tool, effortlessly streamlines all management needs

How To Manage Expectations With Your Stakeholders

  1. Map stakeholders and understand their needs
  2. Establish clear communication channels
  3. Align on feasibility using data
  4. Collaborate on prioritization
  5. Track progress transparently

Let’s dive deeper into these crucial steps, looking at how they can help us effectively manage expectations with our stakeholders.

Step 1:  Map Stakeholders And Understand Their Needs.

So let’s start your journey of acing that stakeholder management game.

Here are the key steps to map stakeholders and understand their needs:

  • Brainstorm All Potential Stakeholders: Brainstorm a comprehensive list of individuals and groups your product or service could influence. This encompasses customers, users, partners, investors, and internal team members.
  • Classify Stakeholders: Next, categorize your stakeholders into distinct groups, such as primary users, influencers, decision-makers, and more. This categorization aids in comprehending the specific roles each stakeholder assumes.
  • Conduct Stakeholder Mapping: Visualize your stakeholders on a canvas to illustrate their relationships and connections. This visual representation unveils any gaps or missing links in your stakeholder network.
  • Interview Key Stakeholders: Initiate one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders across various categories. The primary objective is to gain firsthand insights into their needs, challenges, and goals from their unique perspectives.
  • Synthesize Research Findings: Following the interviews, meticulously analyze the data collected. Seek out recurring themes, areas of consensus, and potential conflicts among stakeholders. This analysis provides valuable insights into the tasks and issues of utmost importance to them.
  • Prioritize Stakeholder Needs: Take a comprehensive view of your findings and prioritize the most significant and everyday needs shared among all stakeholders. Ensure that you also acknowledge and document the less critical or niche requirements.
  • Validate Understanding: Before making further decisions or taking action, validate your synthesis by sharing your findings with select stakeholders. This step confirms the accuracy of your comprehension of their perspectives and insights.


look no further,

Our product management tool, Chisel, can also help streamline this process. Some key benefits Chisel provides include:

  • Stakeholder database: Easily store all stakeholder profiles and connections in one place.
  • Interview templates: Pre-made templates take the guesswork from planning thoughtful interview questions.
Use Chisel survey templates in the user survey features 
Use Chisel survey templates in the user survey features 
  • in survey templates you can use user survey features
  • Insights dashboard: Surface essential customer needs, assumptions, and priorities in one dashboard for the whole team.
  • Customer portal ( public and private both )
Customer portal ( public and private both )
Customer portal ( public and private both )
  • Real-time collaboration: As research findings are added, feedback and discussion between team members are allowed.
Use Chisel Team Radar for real time collaboration
Use Chisel Team Radar for real time collaboration

By leveraging tools like Chisel, our team can map stakeholders and understand their needs comprehensively yet efficiently. This lays the groundwork for developing solutions that meet user and business objectives.

Step 2: Establish Clear Communication Channels.

Here are some key activities to establish clear communication channels:

  • Align on Communication Preferences: Conduct surveys to ensure alignment with stakeholder communication preferences. Understand their ideal methods of staying informed, considering their roles, schedules, and preferred learning styles.
  • Set Communication Cadence: Establish a consistent communication rhythm to maintain transparency. This includes scheduling regular touchpoints such as monthly updates and bimonthly synchronization meetings.
  • Choose Your Communication Tools: Opt for the right communication tools that match stakeholder needs. Select collaboration tools such as a shared project management platform, video conferencing, and email lists based on preferences and the ability to track engagement effectively.
  • Maintain Two-Way Communication: Foster a two-way dialogue with stakeholders. In addition to sharing updates and insights, offer multiple channels for them to provide feedback and promptly address any questions or concerns.
  • Make Communication Effortless: Streamline communication processes using Chisel, our efficient tool. This ensures that sharing information with stakeholders remains swift and convenient, reducing unnecessary burdens.

You may use Chisel, which supports effective Communication in the following ways:

  • Centralized updates: Share project updates, meeting notes, and research findings through Chisel to keep everyone on the same page.
Use Chisel’s advance Integrations for the seamless collaboration
Use Chisel’s advance Integrations for the seamless collaboration
  • Feedback collection: Surface feedback from stakeholders directly in Chisel for easy prioritization and handling by our team.
Use Chisel Your feedback to collect stakeholder feedback
Use Chisel Your feedback to collect stakeholder feedback
  • Engagement tracking: See who has interacted with specific updates, asked questions, or contributed feedback to understand participation levels.
  • Notification settings: Ensure stakeholders receive timely digests or alerts based on their individual preferences set within Chisel.

Our team can foster productive engagement between all critical stakeholders throughout product development with the right combination of in-person and virtual communication avenues and assistance from collaboration tools like Chisel.

Step 3: Align On Feasibility Using Data.

Now you must be wondering what comes next, so it is time to do some alignment, and let’s dive into a few tips for that, 

Shall we?

  • Agree on success metrics: One should collaborate with stakeholders to set clear, measurable definitions for a successful outcome that satisfies all parties.
  • Assess constraints: objectively evaluate your technical, economic, and organizational controls to understand what is realistically achievable accurately.
  • Analyze past data: To benchmark expectations, mine internal resources like historical sales numbers, customer support tickets, and previous feature build times.
  • Research comparable projects: Review case studies of similar initiatives to see what timelines, costs, and tradeoffs other teams experienced when bringing solutions to market.
  • Create prototypes: Build low-fidelity prototypes early and gather stakeholder feedback to determine if initial ideas seem workable before heavily investing in development.
  • Pilot initial concepts: Test minimal ideas with a subset of stakeholders to validate assumptions and refine scope accordingly before wide-scale development.
  • Iterate forecasting models: Continuously refine financial forecasts, resourcing needs projections, and timelines as insights develop to maintain transparent feasibility assessments.

Product management tools like Chisel can aid data-driven feasibility work in the following ways:

  • Provide a central repository for all relevant data to facilitate easy access and analysis.
  • Enable quantitative tracking functionality to monitor metric changes over time for robust feasibility conclusions.
Track stakeholder data using Chisel Release View
Track stakeholder data using Chisel Release View
  • Support collaborative modeling where brainstorming potential models with stakeholder feedback drives continual refinement.

A fact-based approach grounded in past insights and feedback establishes shared pragmatic views of what success means and requires. This includes realistic expectations of timelines, costs, and tradeoffs.

Step 4: Collaborate On Prioritization

Let’s come to your final two steps and unveil a few steps. 

Here are some tips for collaboratively prioritizing requirements with stakeholders:

  • Establish prioritization criteria: Agree on factors like business impact, feasibility, and customer importance that will determine priority.
  • Weight criteria: Allow stakeholders to weigh different criteria based on their roles and perspectives to customize prioritization.
  • Share proposed backlog: Present your initial prioritized backlog based on research for stakeholder feedback.
  • Collect stakeholder input: Use discussion or prioritization tool voting to gather firsthand feedback to refine the backlog.
  • Iterate based on consensus: Where there are disagreements, have open discussions to find compromise or agreement.
  • Document rationale: Note assumptions and rationales behind decisions to maintain credibility and shared understanding.
  • Revisit as needed: Build periodic reprioritization as assumptions evolve to stay aligned with changing conditions.

Thinking, where can I do all of that? Well, don’t worry. We’ve got you.

Chisel facilitates collaborative prioritization in the following ways:

  • Provide a single place to gather prioritization efforts and capture stakeholder inputs.
Align the stakeholder’s ideas using Chisel Alignment matrix
Align the stakeholder’s ideas using Chisel Alignment matrix
  • Include customizable voting processes tailored to different involvement levels.
  • Surface disagreements to facilitate group discussion towards alignment.
  • Track rationale over time to evaluate priority shifts and ensure transparency.

A consensus-based approach leveraging the proper prioritization method manages stakeholder expectations and helps commit all parties to the resulting product backlog.

Step 5: Track Progress Transparently

Congratulations, you are almost there; here come the last steps.

Here are some tips for transparently tracking progress with stakeholders:

  • Share project plans: Communicate timelines, dependencies, and work breakdown so stakeholder expectations are set.
  • Provide status updates: Give regular high-level overviews on progress and metrics against plans through your preferred channels.
  • Surface issues early: Be upfront about potential risks, challenges, or delays as they emerge for timely resolution.
  • Gather feedback regularly: Check that status and direction seem aligned through periodic check-ins, reviews, or feedback forms.
  • Illustrate progress visually: Use milestone achievements, burn-down charts, or customizable dashboard views in tools like Chisel.
  • Demonstrate manually: Consider hosting periodic demonstrations to bring progress to life beyond status updates.
  • Involve stakeholders: Seek stakeholder participation like review meetings, playtests, or work-in-progress feedback sessions.
  • Validate understanding: After updates, validate information was received and interpreted as intended to avoid misalignment.

Guess what? You can use a chisel for this final step, too.

Chisel facilitates transparency through features such as:

  • Centralized tracking of tasks, milestones, and metrics visible to all stakeholders.
  • Real-time updates are kept in one place for easy status monitoring from anywhere.
Use Chisel Kanban for agile Stakeholder management
Use Chisel Kanban for agile Stakeholder management
  • Customizable views and permissions allow each user tailored progress visibility.
Use Customizable views using Chisel Timeline
Use Customizable views using Chisel Timeline

Transparency builds credibility and ensures all parties share expectations of the current direction and remaining work.

Key Takeaways

Great job making it through all those tips on managing stakeholder expectations! Handling these relationships can get tricky, so you should feel proud of yourself for seeking ways to improve.

A visual recap of key steps for managing stakeholder expectations
A visual recap of key steps for managing stakeholder expectations

Engaging stakeholders effectively requires clear Communication, fact-based feasibility assessments, collaborative prioritization, and transparency around progress. You can set your project up for success by following practices like mapping needs, establishing regular touchpoints, leveraging tools for input and status updates, and validating shared understanding.

While this article covered many frameworks, maintaining alignment through ongoing stakeholder involvement is the underlying theme. Their perspectives are invaluable for informing decisions – but only if you make it effortless for them to contribute and see the current status in real time.

In the future, reflect critically on how you can continuously cement stakeholder cooperation. Seek feedback on your progress reporting methods, make prioritization decisions jointly owned, and proactively address areas of uncertainty before they escalate. Remember, managing expectations is a long-term effort, not a one-time task.

With perseverance and a willingness to improve, you’ll nurture relationships built on honesty and partnership. This will allow your work to evolve sympathetically with the real needs of those it aims to serve. Keep up the great strides in fostering transparent collaboration – it will pay dividends for your success and satisfaction. You’ve got this!

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