Stakeholder engagement is an essential component of any project. However, few project managers take the time and effort required to engage their stakeholders in a way that will add true value. But when they do, it pays off every time.
This is the first of our four-part series ‘Nailing the project management must-do's where we will discuss ways to proactively engage stakeholders, build enduring relationships and meaningfully collaborate with them to contribute to a project’s success and end-user satisfaction.
Are your stakeholders adding value
to the project and the final
The New Zealand Treasury’s Gateway Review lessons learned reports lists Stakeholder Management in the top 8 issues for concern in 2013, 2015 and 2017. The report indicates the importance of effective engagement, particularly in complex projects which require input from multiple parties.
Simply put – the benefits of effective stakeholder engagement include:
Who are Stakeholders?
A stakeholder is defined as a person or group that will either be impacted by or can influence the outcome of a project. They can be internal to the organisation delivering the project, or an external party.
The influence a stakeholder can have on a project can be positive or negative and is wide ranging, for example influencing the project approach, the delivery performance and even outcomes.
Therefore, getting to know your stakeholders and having a strong working relationship is vital to the project’s success.
Where do I begin?
1. Identify your stakeholders
The first step is to identify who the stakeholders are. This means identifying groups and individuals that can influence the project or who will be impacted by the outcome being delivered. Don’t forget to think outside of your organisation; often your external stakeholders can have more influence than you think!
Seek input from others in identifying the stakeholders. The Project Sponsor and wider project team can support you to identify stakeholders and their likely influence and impacts.
2. Analyse your stakeholders
Once your stakeholders are identified, it’s important to understand the influence and impact of each stakeholder group. This is best captured in a stakeholder matrix which will help you understand which stakeholders to invest the most time in i.e. those with the most influence, and those who will be most impacted. Stakeholders may come and go throughout the lifecycle of the project, and the degree of a stakeholders influence or impact may change over time. It’s important to understand when in the project they’ll have an influence and when they will be impacted.
3. Plan your stakeholder engagement
No two stakeholder groups are engaged the same way. Being able to tailor the engagement approach specific to the needs and desires of each group will set you up for success.
A stakeholder engagement plan is a consolidated view of the who, what, when and how of your project’s engagement. A plan typically will include the identified stakeholders, analysis of stakeholders influence / impact, known expectations and the approach needed for each. It documents the strategies to engage each stakeholder and benefits the project by having clarity from the outset which reduces risk.
This three-step approach is summarised in the diagram above. No matter the complexity of a project, these steps support clear, frequent, and consistent communication to support your engagement with stakeholders throughout the life of the project. Click here to find Tregaskis Brown’s Stakeholder Management Plan and Stakeholder Matrix templates.
What YOU can do to add value to this process:
Successfully carrying out the identify, analyse and plan approach above, enables you to set off on the right foot. However, there is more that you can do to maximise the value that stakeholder engagement can contribute to your project. Things such as establishing relationships with your stakeholders through interpersonal skills, taking initiative and, at times, having empathy and compassion for their perspective can all have a positive impact. Consider the following to assist you:
Develop strategies for dealing with each stakeholder:
From analysing your stakeholders, you will know they are not all equal. Tailor your approach to provide the appropriate engagement and communication for each stakeholder, based on their influence on, and impact from the project.
Effective engagement and communication involves determining:
Invest time in your stakeholders:
By investing time into your stakeholders, you can build relationships and trust; these can benefit yourself and the project further down the line. When communicating with your stakeholders aim to:
Another important relationship for a Project Manager is with their SRO or project sponsor. Look out for the next article in this series which will explore how to develop a confidence-based relationship with your SRO or Sponsor.
Something that will help….
If you, or your team want to advance your stakeholder engagement techniques, contact Tregaskis Brown - we can provide the expertise to help you navigate towards success.