Stakeholder Engagement

Stephanie Bishop | 08.06.2021

There is a myriad of factors that go into a successful project delivery but for us, one that has significant impact, whether done well or not, is stakeholder management.

Stakeholders are important influential resources and at the heart of every programme. As such they should be treated as potential sources of risk and opportunity within the project, so we have put together 6 useful hints that can help with effective stakeholder management.

1.Identify your stakeholders

Dedicate your first couple of weeks on identifying who your project stakeholders are and what role they play in the project’s success. You can separate stakeholders into three main categories:

Primary Stakeholders

People directly affected by the work. Primary stakeholders are usually project beneficiaries.

Secondary Stakeholders

People indirectly affected by the work. Secondary stakeholders include teams supporting the project and/or those impacted by its outcome.

Key Stakeholders

People with a strong influence over the work and a vested interest in its success. This group includes executives.

Each group has different interests, objectives, and agendas. Some will have a high impact on your project, some will have little impact, it is important to know the difference to keep the project moving.

A great tip here is to map out your stakeholders and classify them to help you prioritise.

2. Communicating with your stakeholders

Once you have properly identified and classified the impact of your stakeholders, you then need to understand how best to communicate with them and build an effective working relationship. While a board member may want top level information, another may want a detailed breakdown. Clarify what information needs to be relayed to each stakeholder, how often and the communication channels they prefer. Under share information and you will be seen as unprepared, over share and you could confuse your stakeholder with the level of information – be sure to ask, you cannot guess this!

Who are your potentially difficult stakeholders? You must gain their trust and convince them to adapt to the change, above all else, people want to feel understood and their opinions matter. Schedule in one-to-one time with them, listen carefully, empathise with their situation, understand if this is a problem you can work through together and if this is a real problem that could affect successful delivery.

3. Listen

Often difficult stakeholders are difficult for a reason. Some have challenging personalities, of course, but others might be acting that way because they feel unheard. Imagine how you would react if you thought no one was listening to you or taking on board your input?

Therefore, try to be still, quiet, and open. Hear what they have to say, even ask for their advice. This is not merely a psychological technique, but a practical one in terms of managing your project. They are, after all, your stakeholders and have a vested interest in the success of the project. Listen to them, they could have some gold to give you!

Give people opportunities to share their insights and opinions with the group and help make decisions, highlight their ideas, input, and influence the conversations that help keep the project going in the right direction.

4. Big picture planning

It’s important to allocate time to allow yourself to step back and think about the strategy and the bigger picture. All too often it’s far too easy to get distracted by what’s in front of you and the day to day.

How agile does this project need to be? What are the deadlines and pitfalls? Are the milestones realistic or do they need to be challenged? Have the benefits been mapped out? Do you know which stakeholders are more adaptable and if you can use them to help influence the more difficult stakeholders?

Decide on how to handle change when it arises. Who do these changes need to be communicated with in detail and who will just want to know the overall impact on delivery?

5. Understanding Success

Project success means different things to different people and you need to establish what your stakeholder community perceives success to be for them in the context of project delivery. This is something rarely done correctly as the assumption is that success means the same to everyone included on the project, the delivery.

Benefits management and the communication around change is a whole other subject and blog!

6. Take responsibility

Stakeholder engagement is not the job of one member of the project team. It is the responsibility of everyone to understand their role and to follow the right approach to communication and engagement.

Good project governance requires providing clarity about stakeholder engagement roles and responsibilities and what is expected of people involved in the project.

Engaging Effectively.