There are a few ways of managing expectations and conflicts with stake holders, this depends the stake holders themselves and whether the conflict is between those outside of the organisation or inside the organisation or a mix of both inside and outside. In my opinion first and foremost is good communications. I find this is key to insuring all stake holders understand where a project is and what the next steps to achieve the final goal are.
Where there is conflict between stake holders, Its important to understand what each party wants, why they want it, what it’s priority is to them and any assumptions a stake holder may have made. Once these are understood, you can try to look at ways of providing mutual gain for any conflicting sides. I find bringing them together (meeting with them) and looking at ways of reaching an agreement in a face-to-face situation works the best.
A good example of this was when I made an excellent relationship with the Principality Stadium management as I recognised they were one of the important stake holders for us to proceed smoothly with the Dragon Heart Hospital and I got all the cooperation I needed from them, but others failed due to not keeping them informed because they hadn’t recognised they were an important stake holder and had not communicated with them keeping them in the dark. This ultimately led to bad relations which hindered the project.
Another way of resolving conflict with those in the same stake holder group is by providing the same information in different ways. I would find shareholders want to be able read a report in different formats, so it’s good if you can accommodate the information in two different styles, or perhaps allow those shareholders to be able to design their own reports in an information system. I experience this regularly when we start a new project that sometimes different departments have different ways of being able to receive reports, also different contractors use different technology. No one shareholder is wrong: they have the own interests and you need to understand this when they approach a project to increase buy-in.
In my opinion the most difficult stake holders are those that try to influence things behind the scenes, they agree to a direction but then change their mind at sign off; and I see this regularly so I try to identify them early on. They are usually the type of person who agrees in a face-to-face meeting but then later completely contradicts the previously agreed goals. This can stall progress and cause conflict and early engagement and resolution of issues. It is important to try and stop this before it grows into a bigger problem.
It is also important that you consider that certain stake holders can be more emotional in relation to a project that others; yet this doesn’t mean they have more influence. Good communication is key to prevent confusion and misunderstandings. Also just because a stakeholder has a grievance with the organisation or a project, this doesn’t necessarily mean that their grievance is justified; all parties have their own interests after. You have to be prepared to take responsibility when things don’t go to plan. Passing responsibility unfairly (or refusing to accept due criticism) a guaranteed to result in a lack of trust and damage relationships within the stake holder group.