Stakeholder engagement becomes increasingly important in all areas of business life. Projects need to work closely with people to succeed. But how can you expect the project team to meet all the demands of their stakeholder engagement expectations.
Agreeing a common understanding of stakeholder engagement
Each group, and sometimes each individual, can hold a different view of what they expect from engagement and the demands they might place on a project. So, is engagement, communication to anyone involved in the project. Or is it involving anyone affected by the project? The global definition is less important. What the project team need to do is define what they mean in a way that can be agreed by all parties. Ideally the level and shape of engagement should be something that is defined for all projects in an organisation.
1. Identifying and prioritising stakeholders
Depending on the nature of your project and the range of people affected the stakeholder population could be extremely wide. Identifying the grouping as early as possible and set priority on those that have the biggest influence and power over your project. An executive leader may not have direct interest in your project but is likely to have power to affect outcomes. Mapping stakeholders against they impact on your project as well as your projects impact on them will give you a priority for your stakeholder engagement efforts.
2. Understanding expectations
Understanding expectations is critical to the practical involvement of stakeholders. Clearly communicating to the stakeholder groups what they can expect from your project and when they can expect it. This can be done by sharing versions of your project plan. But also important is to explain your expectation of the stakeholders and get them to understand what you want and need from them to help the project succeed for everyone’s benefit.
The most difficult part is confirming what stakeholders really expect from the project and not just what the headlines of that might be. This involves listening to people and adjusting objectives and plans where that is appropriate.
3. Clear and appropriate communication
In an ever more complex world communication is key to understanding. But that must be communicated in a way that your stakeholders understand. One size does not fit all. What works for the senior managers and board will not work for the customer or other stakeholder groups. Keep the message to the point and as simple as possible. Avoid jargon, and be straightforward and honest.
4. Reduce doubt, uncertainty and assumption
Clear up any points of uncertainty or misunderstanding as soon as possible. The more doubt and assumption in place the less likely the project can achieve a successful outcome. Never shy away from bad news; come up with clear answers removing the opportunity of rumour.
5. Involve Stakeholders in the project where possible
Involve your stakeholders in your project wherever possible. The more invested they are; the greater the chance of success. Stakeholders that feel actively involved and are helping the project will fight to help the project reach it s goal. Good stakeholder engagement and a high level of involvement and responsibility will help to ease the project workload, bringing all parties together as a wider team.