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Stakeholder Management in Production Processes

A primary objective of the localization project manager is to keep all of the projects we manage moving forward. This requires cross-project analysis to determine the next highest priority action on our action items list to be completed to keep all projects moving forward. In localization project management, secondary priorities generally do not exist. Rather, we ask ourselves, what’s the highest priority action that needs to be undertaken to keep all of my projects moving forward? Then, what’s the next highest priority action after that? Then, what’s the next highest priority?

This exercise requires a re-imagining of the metaphor “moving forward” for LPMs… Images of localization workflows suggest linear, logical interpretations of forward movement. However, at times, sending content backward to a previous process for rework is forward movement, since any action that prevents further downstream issues ultimately ensures that a project will be able to be realigned with efficient processing toward project goals.

The critical path...
The critical path…

This exercise also requires the careful impartiality in leadership discussed in Sandra M. Mitchell’s chapter, “The Project Manager Role.” As LPMs, we generally do not have formal supervisory authority over the team members engaged in a project, the people who carry out the processes of the localization workflow. We can influence, not mandate, or escalate conflicts as necessary. We also have very little control over the needs and demands of many of the various external and implicit stakeholders to a project. Achieving and maintaining stakeholder buy-in is a careful balancing act for the LPM.

The need to maintain stakeholder buy-in is discussed in many standards related to our industry. The topic is also covered in PMBOK, aka the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide, of the Project Management Institute. PMBOK identifies the exercise of stakeholder management as “project governance,” or “the alignment of the project with stakeholders’ needs or objectives” (30)… 

Stakeholders include all members of the project team as well as all interested entities that are internal or external to the organization. The project team identifies internal and external, positive and negative, and performing and advising stakeholders in order to determine the project requirements and the expectations of all parties involved. The project manager should manage the influence of these various stakeholders in relation to the project requirements to ensure a successful outcome. (PMBOK 31)

Project Management Body of Knowledge of the PMI

Further…

Stakeholder identification is a continuous process throughout the entire project life cycle. Identifying stakeholders, understanding their relative degree of influence on a project, and balancing their demands, needs, and expectations are critical to the success of the project. Failure to do so can lead to delays, cost increases, unexpected issues, and other negative consequences including project cancellation. (PMBOK 31, emphasis added)

Project Management Body of Knowledge of the PMI

The image below is a feeble attempt to portray some of the various explicit and implicit stakeholders to the localization production workflow, and the communication that takes place among key players… Double sided arrows are used both to portray the flow of communication and to suggest the positioning strategies carried out during communication.

Stakeholders in localization production processes v.2 by Alaina Brandt
Stakeholders in localization production processes v.2

In terms of positioning, we’ll situate our discussion by considering a single example of a typical project communication between parties with conflicting objectives. Let’s say that the account representative has been working on winning work from a particular potential client for months. Finally, that client sends a job, and they need rush turnarounds. When the account representative brings the job to the LPM, the LPM positions herself as a representative of the team whose objective is to produce quality work. She’ll explain that rush deadlines impact quality, increase stress, and require increased costs to account for any unidentified risks that may result from limitations in time available to carry out robust project planning. The account representative positions themselves to me as a representative of the client and accepts increased costs.

When we bring the project to the team, the LPM now positions herself as a representative of sales (and our organization, our new client, and our eventual target users). She’ll explain to her team members the months of careful work carried out by sales to even win the chance to perform work for this client. In this way, she manages stakeholder expectations by providing context for the job. Suddenly, the job is not just another rush job. Suddenly, the job is our opportunity to capitalize on the long efforts invested by the account representative. Suddenly, the team is geared to perform good, fast work.

In this situation, the LPM didn’t demand that team members rush through the project and work OT to get the project done. Demands tend to lead to negative attitudes, and negative attitudes affect performance, which affects quality, according to ISO. Instead, she used transparent communication to influence how the project would be received. And instead of feeling frustrated by another rush client and another rush job, she gave the team an idea they could rally around. This form of communication is emotional intelligence at work.

Emotional intelligence is a key skill to develop for work as a locPM. Yet, emotional intelligence must be practiced sincerely… Emotional intelligence must be carried out based on the principles of honesty, integrity, transparency, with an eye toward team building and with the best interests of stakeholders close to heart.

Now, let’s consider that same scenario, but tweak the circumstances a bit in order to examine that idea of managing the degree of influence of project stakeholders. Let’s say that the same potential client is requesting turnarounds that are so compressed that the team determines that we will be unable to produce our minimum standard for quality in our work. In this case, the team addresses an imbalance in the degree of influence of project stakeholders. We do so by representing a stakeholder that has no immediate influence on project parameters: the target user. We determine that rather than to produce a low quality product that the target user will struggle to understand, we will decline the project.

This sort of a determination will at times require that the project manager put the lion in l10n PM. Courage, steadfastness, and calm based on an understanding of best practices are needed to approach this type of determination with clients, and even upper management. Best case scenario, the client will acknowledge your organization’s professionalism and acquiesce on the deadline. Worst case scenario, your team hasn’t lowered the bar for what constitutes a minimal level of translation quality.

On the topic of stakeholder management, standards are clear… Transparent collaboration based on mutual respect and consensus is standard best practice for ensuring the success of the movement of products through the localization workflow.

Works cited

Grant, Adam. “The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.” The Atlantic, TheAtlantic.com, 2 Jan. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/the-dark-side-of-emotional-intelligence.

Goleman, Daniel, and Richard E. Boyatis. “Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need to Work On?” Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Publishing, 6 Feb. 2017, hbr.org/2017/02/emotional-intelligence-has-12-elements-which-do-you-need-to-work-on.

“lion images.” Google search.

Mitchell, Sandra M. “5. The Project Manager Role.” Cert Prep: Project Management Professional (PMP)®, The Project Management Institute, LinkedIn Learning, 15 Apr. 2018, www.linkedin.com/learning/cert-prep-project-management-professional-pmp/overview-of-the-project-manager.

PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition (2017). Project Management Institute, Inc., 2019, www.pmi.org/pmbok-guide-standards/foundational/pmbok.

Project Management Institute (PMI). Project Management Institute, Inc., 2019, www.pmi.org.

Romano, James V. “Term of the Week: Localization (l10n).” The Localization Term of the Week. XML Press, The Content Wrangler, 12 Mar. 2018, thelanguageoflocalization.com/2018/03/14/term-of-the-week-localization-l10n/.

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