14 March 2022

Of pointy umbrellas on public transport

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Of pointy umbrellas on public transport

From commuting in wet weather to stakeholder management.

(No really – stay with me…)

I often commute to and through central London on my way into work. One wet day I found cause to wish that people would carry large golfing umbrellas on busy public transport vertically when folded, because a pointy golfing umbrella held horizontally effectively transforms into a mediaeval jousting lance with the business end at groin height when walking on the flat, or eye height when on escalators (ouch!).

One such weapon-wielder I pointed this out to responded with obvious and genuine concern, but it surprised me that this person had been oblivious to their potential impact on other public transport users up until then.

It struck me that this experience has parallels with project stakeholder engagement. People can easily get so tightly focused on the task at hand (whether that is hurrying to catch the next train, or implementing a software system) that they can lose sight of the impact that may have on the people around them.

Hopefully project stakeholders will have been identified early in the project, analysed and categorised according to their power and influence over the project, and suitable engagement strategies devised. Depending on their relationship with the project, the stakeholders will then have been involved with the project, consulted on it or at least kept informed about the project as it unfolds. This flow of information, combined with periodic checks to ensure firstly that the information is getting through, and that secondly nothing has changed in the stakeholder’s relationship with the project, should help to minimise any unintended impact.

There may be nothing that the project team can do about the delivery of the project’s product, but by giving affected stakeholders fair warning, the project team can at least enable them to prepare for the impact when it comes (e.g. by purchasing and wearing some protective riot gear!).

So the moral of the story is this: as you hurry around with your head down (whether you are carrying your umbrella or delivering projects), periodically lift up your head and look around you to make sure you’re not about to poke someone somewhere they wouldn’t want to be poked!

How do you ensure that all your project stakeholders are identified, and that your projects don’t have unintended impacts?

First published in 2012

Photo by yns plt on Unsplash