On both sides of the project – the Business function receiving the project and the IT function or Vendor with its often-separate motivations for delivery
Of course – Stakeholder Management is a very broad topic in itself – Because almost every project you work on – large or small, simple or complex – needs input from other people, and, chances are you’ll depend on some of them for support, investment and resources. Stakeholder Management is not just the process of engaging with these people, but also maintaining good relationships with them. You’ll likely be working with people in many different roles, with varying levels of influence over your project. Communicating with each one in the right way can play a vital part in keeping them “on board.”
In general, we focus particularly on leadership in the organisations – those who sponsor the project, control resources and ultimately those whose definitions of, and motivations for success are impacted significantly by project success or failure. This does not mean we want to consume significant amounts of valuable executive time – we work to understand the organisation from within, and how to channel communication using both the mechanisms already existing within an organisation and our privilege as external consultants to achieve a more harmonious stakeholder engagement.
Stakeholders represent Leadership in a project setting. We are not a Leadership Development consultancy as such – but we do subscribe to a passionate belief that leaders need to promote change, develop new approaches to existing challenges, and, in doing so, need to understand the belief structures, motivations and engagement criteria of the people who deliver that change for them. Therefore, stakeholders are not immune from that passion and have become a key group for us to work alongside in order to deliver successful projects. It generally takes leadership itself to manage stakeholders…
Stakeholder leadership is one of the most complex general management skills to master. You need a solid, very broad base of business leadership skills to be ready to lead a stakeholder engagement process. Of course attending leadership programs at good business schools can help you bring the right strengths and skills into your repertoire for effective stakeholder leadership, and whilst this is extremely relevant for Project Managers and other project members – this is not our offering.
This kind of leadership can make or break a business strategy, project implementation or change process. If you handle stakeholder engagement well, the various people involved in, or affected by, your project act as ever increasing supporters as you navigate through your challenge. But failing to properly account for stakeholder impact could result in strong resistance, feeble implementation and negative outcomes you had not considered or intended and can throw you further into the vortex of project failure.
Therefore, making stakeholder engagement a priority from the start builds trust and puts you in place to accurately assess when and how to reach out to stakeholders. It is important to attribute appropriate resources to your stakeholder engagement. Your strategy may include:
- Assign internal responsibility for stakeholder engagement action
- Continually Identifying all stakeholder groups (they may change over time)
- Consulting with stakeholders
- Setting relevant limits on stakeholder involvement – particularly in detailed issues
We look to offer practical support through the development and implementation of all of these strategies and importantly utilise our privilege as external consultants to offer a non-hierarchical access point when there are specific challenges or issues. We understand that privilege and use it sparingly – but it is real and should be factored as part of the project communication strategy.