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Project Management Rebooted™ | Cultivate Your Beneficial Stakeholders

project management project management training stakeholder management Aug 26, 2018

Hold onto your ever-changing, multi-faceted Project Management gardening hat. 

More Stakeholder insect archetypes have been identified.

Blame it on the wildfire smoke filling our usually clear and pristine skies here in Seattle.  Or better yet, blame it on the glaring need for focusing on the positive aspects of the people we work with.  

A few months ago, I wrote about Spiders, Beetles, and Ticks as archetypes for crazed stakeholders you may run across in your projects.  It wasn’t exactly a flattering description of human behavior, but when has human behavior ever been 100% saintly?

In this post, the emphasis shifts focus to a few insect archetypes representing beneficial stakeholders: the Butterflies, Honey Bees, and Lady Bugs living in our project ecosystems.  Those who make the life of a project manager a life worth living, a project worth driving, not to mention a life with less gray hair and reduced cortisol levels.

When I think about past projects I survived, those that seemed as though they spawned directly from the dark forces of the underworld, I note that I still managed to experience successful outcomes. 

Zooming in on the many reasons for the success, I'm able to acknowledge that it was usually due to the stakeholders who linked arms with me and supported the project in ways that went beyond expectations. In ways that were often not visible all the time.

Sure, part of your success is due to your awesome project management skills.  And, a whole lot more of it can be credited to the team working with you.

But let’s not kid ourselves. 

It DOES take a village.  

A village with Butterflies, Honey Bees, and Lady Bugs doing their thing - working in the background, pollinating flowers and making honey to get you, the team, and your project across the finish line.

Making phone calls to talk sponsors and other stakeholders off 20 story ledges; clearing out time in their day to solve 911 project issues in the midst of their impossibly choked schedule; pulling strings in the background to get a budget increase for that last minute unidentified widget no one knew was needed; taking time to make sure the Executive Director or CEO knows how hard you’re working to drive the project forward in the midst of chaos and ambiguity.

These are the gifts of a Beneficial Stakeholder.  And when experienced in your project, they can make or break the outcome.

What do Butterflies, Honey Bees, and Lady Bugs stakeholders look and act like anyway?

You may have a few of these present and not even know it because you’re so busy or possibly unable to see their behind-the-scenes activities. 

If this is you, pause now, pay attention, and then read on to find out how to keep these often-overlooked stakeholders around your project.


Flitting and drifting in meadows in your favorite Disney movie.  Looking innocent and friendly. Who doesn’t like Butterflies? 

Having a Butterfly Stakeholder in your project universe means having protection against larger predatory type stakeholders I wrote about last time – the Spiders, the Beetle, and Ticks. 

Innocent and friendly looks aside, Butterflies often have colors and markings that shield them from being eaten or messed with.  For example, the big spots on an owl Butterfly look like the eyes of a much larger animal, so a predator like a bird may think twice about attacking. Other Butterflies are camouflaged to blend into their environment, and some are brightly colored to warn that they are poisonous.

Translated to the beneficial insect archetype, a Butterfly Stakeholder appears as if they can simultaneously charm while karate chopping in the gut if someone makes any mention of project sabotage or undermining.  They can protect your project and team against naysayers and obstructionists in the organization seeking to poke holes or worse, take down the project work and outcome. 

This, coupled with the Butterfly’s innate ability to feel vibrations in their environment with their antennae and setae sensory hairs (evidently, the can’t hear), can help warn of any incoming danger, assisting project managers in proactively responding to hazardous project environment changes they may not realize immediately.

To keep Butterflies around your project, be sure to be transparent and communicative with your project leaders, keeping them looped in and tuned in to possible issues and risks.  This will enable them to be on the alert in hallway conversations and other meetings you’re not a part of to ensure proactive planning.

Famous for pollinating stuff and making honey, Honey Bees have been around for about 34 million years.  They’re the reason we have food, flowers, and plants.  They are a key piece of the circle of life on our planet.

The Honey Bee Stakeholder archetype is the one who goes from person to person, group to group, spreading positive messages about the project and the project team.   

Catalysts for successful project outcomes, they are true project champions.  Their cross-pollination of optimistic messages gives the project and team the street cred and stakeholder buy-in to move the project forward across the organization. 

Honey Bee Stakeholders are experts at dealing with mal-intented stakeholders who may cross them by interrupting or threatening the hive.  They have barbed stingers for a reason and won't hesitate to sting in when the situation dictates.  Leave the drama to them and your project and team will eventually be able to reap sweet benefits.

Provide your Honey Bee Stakeholders with lots of flowers (again, project information, transparancy and iron-clad positive outcomes) so they have the pollen they need to socialize within the organization.

So sweet and dainty.  Seemingly benign. 

Let’ shatter this image with the truth.

Lady Bugs have many natural insect enemies, especially aphids and other sap feeders. In fact, one single lady beetle may eat as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.

Now, picture the Lady Bug as your current sponsor.  Now picture that person over in a problematic department as an aphid.  The one who won’t play nice and help you meet your deadlines.

You now have a good idea of the benefits a Lady Bug Stakeholder type can bring to your project.

In addition to eating sap feeding insects, Lady Bugs have a super power where they bleed nasty smelling and disgusting Lady Bug fluid out of their leg joints when they are disturbed by a predator.  A sure way to say back off and keep your distance! And proceed with caution if you value your life.

Lady Bug Stakeholder archetypes play an important role in managing the health of your project by keeping predatory stakeholders at bay, basically teaching them to play nice in the project garden.

Keep an eye on the Lady Bugs though.  They can also cause damage by alienating well-meaning stakeholders who may appear to have a negative agenda on the surface, but only need to be managed strategically, not defensively.

Nature is a constant balancing act. Like insects in outdoor gardens, most projects will have a combination of Beneficial Stakeholders keeping the environment in check and destructive stakeholders looking for ways to sabotage or undermine project activities. 

At times you will encounter what are seemingly damaging pests while also finding beneficial insects in the same place.  It comes down to your point of view and realizing that all types of insect stakeholder archetypes have value in moving your projects and initiatives forward in some way.

So often we focus on the negative aspects of disagreeable archetypes, not realizing that managing them in addition to cultivating the presence of Butterfly, Honey Bee and Lady Bug stakeholders is the key to driving true project success; the key to keeping your project in alignment and balance by thoughtfully building your stakeholder relationships to ensure a healthy project ecosystem over the long haul.

You need to have both to have success. 

Tend your project garden holistically, reap the benefits.

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