Best Practices for Managing & Engaging Project Stakeholders



By Aurangzeb Z. Khani, Miroslaw Skibniewskiii, John H. Cableiii

i  Department of Management Sciences, COMSATS University, Islamabad, Pakistan

ii/iii  Project Management Center for Excellence, A. James A. Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA




Effective stakeholder management and engagement is now acknowledged as a critical success factor on virtually every project. These assume heightened importance especially for large and complex construction and civil infrastructure development projects which usually tend to have numerous and diverse stake­holders spread over large areas. Effective project stakeholder management and engagement offers several significant benefits to projects, inter alia, reducing negative risks or threats to them, enhancing their design and planning quality and their execution efficiency, and often contributing towards attainment of a desirable win-win situation for both the projects as well as their stake­holders.

As awareness about the importance of good project stakeholder management and engage­ment has increased precipitously amongst project practitioners in recent year,  many projects in construction and civil infrastructure development as well as in other fields have not only adopted sound established practices but are also showing an increasing inclination to experimenting with innovative ones. However, inadvertently or otherwise, it appears that many projects still exhibit serious stakeholder manage­­ment and engage­ment shortcomings often resulting in mutually damaging and avoidable consequen­ces for projects as well as their stakeholders. Hence, it is important to research existing best practices dealing with stakeholders in addi­tion to proposing new ones and to generate and disseminate awareness about them to a wide audience of project practitioners and decision-makers. Doing so may expedite their application on projects and thus gradually and significantly improve the overall quality of the manage­ment and engagement of their stakeholders.

In this paper the authors present and outline ten selected ‘best practices’ for managing and enga­ging stakeholders on projects. The insights gained are an outcome of the aut­hors’ long-term inter-institutional collaborative research program on the management and engagement of stakeholders on projects, which is currently running in its sixth year. Some of these best practices came to light in discussions and interviews conducted by them over the time period 2017-19 with over fifty senior project managers and stakeholders excer­cising managerial functions on projects in the United States of America and Pakis­tan. Others stem from the authors’ own personal reflection and experiences with large and complex projects accumulated over a period of several decades.

Although the best practices outlined in this paper can be applied in the context of any category of projects which are being undertaken anywhere they are especially useful for managing and engaging stakeholders on large and complex projects as are typically encountered in major construction and civil infrastructure development schemes. Such projects normally have a large number of pri­mary stakeholders – i.e. those stakeholders which are actively participating in the project and have contractually assigned roles and responsibilities in it – some of whom are individuals serving in an independent capacity while others are organizations. All these entities work collaboratively by combining their inputs, resources and expertise for the purpose of under­taking the project. As knowledge, appreciation and the applied standards of stakeholder management and engagement may differ from stakeholder to stakeholder it is certainly in the interests of the project to not only ensure that all its primary stakeholders are fully cognizant of the criticality of effective stakeholder management and engagement contin­uously throughout the project life-cycle but also to proactively implement a set of practical  measures which can enhance the quality of stakeholder interaction especially with a view towards optimizing collaboration and enhancing performance as well as to keep conflicts and issues between stakeholders to a minimum over the project life-cycle.

The ten ‘best practices’ are introduced and briefly outlined below. Their order of appea­rance here is arbitrary and is not intended to signify their level of relative importance. Some of the practices are quicker, easier and less costly to implement than others. However, they all comple­ment each other nicely. Their focus is more on the project’s pri­mary stakehol­ders, less on its secondary stakeholders. Unlike the primary stakeholders, the secondary stakeholders are not active participants in the project and have no assigned roles and responsibilities in it but usually are very large in number, are affected by it in varying degrees and quite often do not always view the project favorably. While each of these practices if applied individually can benefit the project to some degree, it would certainly be no exaggeration to state that their collective, wholehearted and sustain­ed application throughout the project life-cycle over time may bring about a very significant and observable positive impact on both project effectiveness and efficiency and satisfy the interests of both the project as well as (and in particular) its (primary) stakeholders.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 7th Annual University of Maryland PM Symposium in May 2020. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Khan, A.Z.; Skibniewski, M.; Cable, J.H. (2020). Best Practices for Managing & Engaging Project Stakeholders; presented at the 7th Annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium, College Park, Maryland, USA in May 2020; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/pmwj96-Aug2020-Khan-Skibniewski-Cable-best-practices-for-managing-project-stakeholders.pdf



About the Authors

Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

COMSATS University
Islamabad, Pakistan



Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management Sciences at the COMSATS University in Islamabad, Pakistan. He introduced Pakistan’s first Master’s degree program in project management at his university in the fall semester 2008. His prime areas of research are project stakeholder management, and project monitoring and evaluation, which he teaches to project management graduate-level students.  He can be contacted at aurangzeb_khan@comsats.edu.pk


Dr. Miroslaw J. Skibniewski

University of Maryland
College Park, MD, USA


Dr. Miroslaw Skibniewski is a Professor in the Center of Excellence in Project Management at the University of Maryland.  He is also Editor-in-Chief of Automation in Construction, an international research journal published by Elsevier, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Frontiers of Engineering Management, a scholarly journal published by Springer and Higher Education Press.  An author/coauthor of over 300 research publications, he lectures on information/automation technologies in construction, construction equipment management, and legal aspects of engineering. Miroslaw can be contacted at mirek@umd.edu


John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


 John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he is also a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer an undergraduate minor, master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu.

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu.