Article - An Energetic Stakeholder Who Has No Clue, But Wants to Appear Important


I am not sure whether this problem is representative to other project managers, but since I keep encountering it over and over in my project management career, I will dedicate today’s posting to it.

Have you ever been involved in the project with a fairly senior but absolutely clueless stakeholder? You know, the one who never bothers even to attempt to understand the topics or problems discussed, but is always ready to ramble for minutes (and sometimes hours) about absolutely useless solutions? Here is a couple of examples:


Example # 1

PM: And now, guys, I want to discuss the issue about the reporting for senor management. The executives want to see “Subcontractors Travel Time” as a separate line item to distinguish it from the “Subcontractor Labor Time” … The problem is that our system is not capturing this info (turning his head to the real subject matter expert, the Senior Systems Architect) Bob, any thoughts on this topic?

Bob: Well, we could …

Energetic Stakeholder: (rudely interrupting Bob) Oh, I know! You should talk to Melanie from the HR department! Schedule an all-hands-on-deck meeting with her right away!

PM: Melanie? But she is from Human Resources … She has neither financial, nor IT background to help us.

Energetic Stakeholder: Well, she did some reports for our executives six or seven years ago!

Bob: Listen, she did create a couple of HR reports in a different system (Excel to be precise) long time ago. But, trust me, when I tell you that they have NOTHING to do with out issue. We can’t address this problem until we ask our subcontractors to report their travel and labor time separately. We need to talk to the Subcontractors team …

Energetic Stakeholder: (defiantly) I must insist that we talk to her!

Example # 2

PM: Ok, people, today we are going to discuss the functionality of the “Add Item to the Shopping Basket” page … Some of the features on the menu are: state taxes, shipping options, “people who bought this item also bought these items”, customer reviews, number of product photos allowed, zoom options, etc. We have A LOT do discuss, so let us get started!

Business Analyst: Ok, let us start with the taxes issue. Here is what I was able to find …

Energetic Stakeholder: (rudely interrupting the BA) I read somewhere that the “Add to Basket” button should be very large and brightly colored. We must document his right away! I feel that this button should be pink!

PM: It is a valid point, but we are currently discussing the functional design, not the user interface …

Energetic Stakeholder: (defiantly) I must insist that we add this feature right away!

So here is my question for you:

How do you deal with this problem?

  1. Well he (she) is a very senior person, so I just follow his (her) orders even if they don’t make any sense
  2. I stand my ground and politely refuse to follow his instructions
  3. I pretend to listen, but usually I just ignore her advice. She never follows up anyways
  4. I do something else entirely

Please leave your comments below

About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @

Jamal is an author of three very popular books: 

  1. Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection, Scoping, Estimation and Management 
  2. Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects
  3. Project Portfolio Management in Theory and Practice: Thirty Case Studies from around the World