If you manage a project, you’ll be keen to avoid failure, and one potential pitfall is within stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management. If you fail to engage stakeholders, or don’t appease resistors to change, you can have a real problem on your hands.
Every project you will take on will have a direct or indirect impact on other critical operational processes.
Without understanding what they are, who raised the issue and if there can be a compromise, you risk being told that you cannot implement any changes without addressing the issues late in the day. The result? Delayed projects, overspend, under-confidence in the plan and potentially, repercussions for not meeting the correct compliance.
This is why stakeholder engagement is so crucial. This is the process of listening and entering into a dialogue with stakeholders, whilst of course, trying to influence. There is a major connection between successful projects and successful stakeholder engagement.
Freeman defines a stakeholder as:
“A group or an individual who can affect or be affected by the outcomes of a project…or perceive this to be the case.”
The fact is, anyone can be a stakeholder, and critically, anyone can be a resistor to change.
If your project has resistors, part of tour engagement is to try and influence opinion in a way that is factual but also convincing of the benefits of the projects.
Reiterate the needs of the project to those that you need support from. This could be winning their support by showing the financial, security or other benefits that the project could help them attain. Restate the project needs in alignment to their own needs.
Bring data to bear. Bringing data to any meeting can help showcase the benefits of the project. Demonstrable statistics can also help show the benefits of the project.
Express the project in emotional terms. Although this sounds counter-intuitive to showcasing data, every piece of action has to be ‘felt’ as the right direction to take. Decisions are made by humans, so try and bring the benefits and opportunities back to an emotional level. If the stakeholders can feel the benefits, this will provide real value.
Be clear on time frames. Someone who feels they have been given reasonable warning to change will be much more receptive than someone who feels the rug has been swept up from under them. It is critical that any stakeholder needs to understand how and when they need to give support and when they will start to see changes. This will help them.
Report regularly. It is key to tell stakeholders where you are on your journey, regularly and often. This feedback loop helps them to see that the project is moving forward and making progress If there are warning signs that things are not going to plan, open up. This might help gain support and ideas and also ensures they are informed.
Acknowledge their contribution. It is also a great strategy that during each milestone or moment, you share this with your stakeholders. Give them credit and acknowledge the success of the programme or project. Even resistors can switch and become a champion of your project, so sharing good news is key.
When it comes to managing stakeholder engagement, you need to ensure that your processes don’t lead to failure.
Using spreadsheets increases risk of data errors, duplication and mislaying information.
Because spreadsheets lack controls, it is very easy for stakeholders’ views and feedback to be altered, even deleted permanently. This sort of activity could easily go undetected and creates a window for fraudulent behaviour both from within the business and from outside forces.
On top of that, as you undertake more stakeholder engagement all the initial requirements, perceptions and attitudes will change. Spreadsheets, on the other hand, are very one dimensional and rigid. As spreadsheets become more complex to keep up with changing demands, they in turn become harder to manage, and more likely to breakdown. Time and money are wasted trying to keep the process afloat.
Tractivity is an all in one management system for Stakeholder Communication, Engagement and Reporting. Tractivity is extensively used by a whole range of organisations in the Energy, Utilities, Transport and NHS sectors to manage their stakeholder interactions. Tractivity organises stakeholders, communication and reporting together for one central source for stakeholder management. Tractivity reports gather information from the entire project and summarise key activity whenever you need it. Tractivity also includes communication facilities such as newsletters, surveys and event management tools.
Together, the right tactics and the right processes can help overcome the risk of project failure.