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Stakeholder Relationships – Sustain vs. Maintain

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

Stakeholders shaking hands

As Project Managers, we all know that building a strong stakeholder relationship is a crucial step in managing a project. What is even more crucial is keeping that relationship strong throughout the life of the project and beyond and that’s why I want to focus this post on the difference between sustaining a relationship vs. simply maintaining it.

So, what’s the difference? Putting it simply, maintain implies keeping a status quo or a short-term gain while sustain goes deeper and focuses on a longer-term benefit. First, let’s take a simple example of taking care of our yard. Maintaining our yard would include cutting grass, watering plants, and removing weeds, just so it looks nice in the short term. On the other hand, sustaining would include providing seasonal fertilizer, strengthening roots during winter, controlling weeds, etc. so focusing on its health longer-term. You are going a notch above and may even hire a professional service to sustain your yard’s overall health.

Using a stakeholder relationship example, maintaining would refer to keeping your key stakeholders in the loop regarding the project by inviting them to status meetings, sending them status reports, addressing their questions and queries, etc. If you want to sustain the relationship that you have built, you would go the extra mile by doing a periodic check with them. This could be via meeting face-to-face or inviting them to lunch and having a conversation to ensure they are in the loop vs. assuming they are. By just adding that one extra step, you are demonstrating that you care. Speaking from our own experience, the impact is exponentially high on your key stakeholders who are crucial to your project’s successful outcome.

Do try this if you have not already and see the difference it makes. If you are already following this practice, would love to hear your thoughts and examples.

This is just one of the topics we are sharing here on stakeholder relationships. We have a lot more to share on the topic including our own stories from our experiences.

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