Stakeholder engagement is absolutely vital whether you are operating in a portfolio, programme or project activity. It is the means by which you gain support for your change initiatives allowing them to progress through the organization.
Stakeholders generally do not appreciate being managed and trying to do this from a purely mechanistic mindset is not going to work.
Stakeholder engagement is the part of my job I find really fascinating and most satisfying since I love working with people at all levels to enable change. Engagement is much more active and embracing than communication. It allows stakeholders to be part of decision making and implementation, but also includes consulting with them and informing them. Nevertheless, communication is central to all of these and any change process.
But what is a stakeholder?
A stakeholder is any individual, group or organization that can affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a programme of change. An example being patients during the construction of a new hospital. In Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®), one key aspect of “leading change” is that it actively engages stakeholders in the following ways:
- Leaders within the organization use the programme vision statement to influence and persuade stakeholders to commit to the new future state of the organization.
- Business Change Managers engage their operational stakeholders, leading them through the uncertainty of transition to the new ways of working.
- One or more stakeholders may perceive a focus on benefits as advantageous.
- Stakeholders identified as sources of resources to enable delivery of the new capabilities required.
There are four core elements to look at:
- Stakeholder identification and analysis which involves sending the right message to the right audience using the right method at the right time.
- Message clarity and consistency which will ensure relevance, recognition and develop trust.
- Effective system of message delivery so that the stakeholders get the messages in a timely and effective way.
- Feedback options to assess the effectiveness of the communications process.
Stakeholder engagement within portfolios, programmes and projects
In the management of portfolios, the purpose of stakeholder engagement is to provide a coordinated communication approach so that:
- the needs of the portfolio’s customers (both internal and external) are identified and managed appropriately.
- stakeholder support for the portfolio is gained by effective consultation and involvement.
How a programme engages its stakeholders is crucial to its success since it needs to take into account those who:
- support or oppose it
- end up gaining or losing when benefits are realized
- see only a threat
- are indifferent to the change
- become helpful or unhelpful depending on how they themselves are managed and influenced
- might become either supporters or blockers of the benefits being realized depending on how and at what level they are engaged.
With projects too, stakeholders matter and their input should affect the way the project is planned and implemented. Most projects have stakeholders and they require some form of engagement. In this context, it is the engagement that needs managing, because the right type of engagement varies depending on the types of stakeholder involved and the context of the project, whether it be simple or complex in nature.
To summarize, stakeholder engagement is a way of achieving influence and positive outcomes through effective management of relationships.
Read more AXELOS blog posts from Allan Thomson
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