More on Stakeholder Management


Posted on 26th December, by JimYoung in Blog. Comments Off on More on Stakeholder Management

Further to my item http://www.skillpower.co.nz/2014/10/18/stakeholder-management/ have you ever been in a situation where you had to balance the various interests of a group of people? In the project business we call this stakeholder management and it can be difficult since people involved invariably have different opinions, expectations, agendas and ways of communicating. Managing these differences can be a challenge. As the name implies, a project stakeholder is any individual or organisational entity with a “stake” in our project.

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Project success depends largely on the stakeholders involved and one definition of project success is “happy stakeholders.” We may get to pick some or all of our project team, but we won’t get to choose every stakeholder.  As a project manager, it’s our job to work with the stakeholders we’ve got and to understand what makes them tick.  The ability to manage these people (owners, users, team members, contractors, suppliers, public authorities, financial institutions, insurance companies, media, third parties, competitors and so on) and their relationship with each other, goes a long way towards our project success. More specifically, we undertake the process in order to:

  • – Understand the needs of those affected by the problem or opportunity
  • – Identify those who have the rights, interests, resources, skills and abilities to take part in or influence the course of the project
  • – Identify and define the attitudes and aptitudes of key stakeholders
  • – Assess the manner in which they might affect or be affected by the project
  • – Understand the relations among stakeholders, including real or potential conflicts of interests and expectations
  • – Identify potential winners and losers as a result of the project
  • – Reduce or remove any negative concerns about the project.

Another important reason for identifying and understanding stakeholders is that this allows us to recruit them as part of our project effort, and in doing so, this:

  • – Puts more ideas on the table than would be the case if the development and implementation of our project was confined to a small group of like-minded people.
  • – Includes varied perspectives from all sectors and elements of the community affected, thus giving a clearer and more complete picture of the community context and potential pitfalls and assets.
  • – Gains buy-in and support from all stakeholders by making them an integral part of project development, implementation and evaluation.  It becomes their project, and they’ll do their best to make it work.
  • – Is fair to everyone. All stakeholders can have a say in the development of our project that may affect them.
  • – Saves us from being blindsided by concerns we didn’t know about. If everyone has a seat at the table, risks and other concerns can be aired and resolved before they become stumbling blocks.  Even if they can’t be resolved, they won’t come as surprises that derail our project just when we thought everything was going well.
  • – Strengthens our position if there’s opposition. Having all stakeholders on board makes a huge difference in terms of political and moral clout.
  • – Creates bridging social capital.  Social capital is the web of acquaintances, friendships, family ties, favours, obligations, and other social currency that can be used to cement relationships and strengthen the project community.
  • – Increases the credibility of our organisation. Involving and attending to the concerns of all stakeholders establishes our organisation as fair, ethical and transparent, and makes it more likely that others will work with us in future.
  •  – Increases the chances for the success of our project. For all of the above reasons, identifying stakeholders and responding to their concerns makes it far more likely that our project will have both the community support it needs and the appropriate focus to be effective.
  • – Described in this blog item are six steps for effective stakeholder management, but appreciate that the process is on-going throughout the life span of our project, recognising too that the interest and influence of stakeholders may change as our project proceeds, and as we proceed some stakeholders will be less relevant and new stakeholders may appear who were not at first apparent. The point being that stakeholder management is an on-going function and not a one-time effort.

1. Identify them

Stakeholders are those who may affect our project or may be affected by our project, or perceive themselves to be affected by our project, for better or for worse. Thus, as the project manager, we, our project sponsor, the programme manager and our project team are also stakeholders – usually referred to as internal stakeholders. This first step requires we identify all the other people or groups who are involved and will be involved, as our project proceeds. At this stage, it’s best to list them all, even if their involvement may seem insignificant at this early stage.   Consider the (unlikely) proposition to establish a prison on Somes Island, Wellington – project Alcatraz or perhaps Devils Island (now a getaway for the rich and famous):

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We should brainstorm with our project team those they know who could be stakeholders, which may also reveal people we’ve overlooked or never knew about. During this process we encourage the team to think of all the people who are affected by our project, who have influence or power over it, or have an interest in its completion. Questions can help direct and prompt ideas in this brainstorming process. Here are a few:

  • – Who is affected positively or negatively by the project?
  • – Who gains and who loses from it?
  • – Who wants it to succeed and who wants it to fail?
  • – Who has the power to make the project succeed or fail?
  • – Who makes the money decisions?
  • – Who are the positive and negative opinion leaders?
  • – Who exercises influence over other stakeholders?
  • – Who could solve particular problems?
  • – Who controls or provides or procures resources?
  • – Who has the special skills needed for the project?

It may also be appropriate to advertise the proposed project.  We could use some combination of the media – often free, through various community service arrangements – community meetings, community and organisational newsletters, social media, targeted emails, announcements by leaders at meetings, and word of mouth to get the message out.  We may find people who consider themselves stakeholders who we haven’t thought about. But remember that although stakeholders may be both organisations and people, ultimately we must communicate with individuals. Thus, we need to identify the appropriate people within a stakeholder group with whom to liaise. To this end we may prepare and maintain a stakeholder register and perhaps classify them as primary or secondary and internal or external stakeholders, where:

  • – Primary stakeholdersare the people or groups that stand to be directly affected, either positively or negatively, by our project.  Primary stakeholders have a major interest in the project because they are directly affected by the outcome. Internal customers (end users) are primary stakeholders as well as our project sponsor, us as the project manager, our project team members, functional managers who provide resources, and the programme manager if our project is part of a programme (related projects). In most cases the sponsor is a very important stakeholder because they have the authority and the project may have been their initiative. They are directly involved in the project and they can use their authority to help us project managers influence other stakeholders.
  • – Secondary stakeholdersare people or groups that are indirectly affected, either positively or negatively, by our project and include external customers or clients (if our project arose due to a contract), contractors, competitors, suppliers, media and local communities. Some secondary stakeholders may also help us complete the project.

Communication between primary and secondary stakeholders will help ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal. Secondary stakeholders may sometimes be difficult to identify or they may not be willing or able to engage, negotiate, compromise or clearly articulate their positions.  The following photo shows internal and external stakeholders for the construction of a public playground project.

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Once we have identified apparent stakeholders, a preliminary analysis, conducted before we engage with our probable and possible external stakeholders may be undertaken using a template such as this:

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2. Find out their goals

The very start of our project is the ideal time to map out each stakeholder’s role in relation to our project and what their individual goals may be. We might have to ask them more than once before we get a real understanding of what they want from our project and what their concerns might be, appreciating that not all stakeholders will be positively affected, particularly for example if redundancies are possible. So we must not assume that everyone is going to find it easy to tell us their goals, or that they’re somehow going to altruistically contribute when the outcome doesn’t seem great for them. I’m thinking also about “activists” such as Greenpeace who may resort to acts of obstruction, disruptrion, vandalism and sabotage they describe as “direct action” mostly aimed at the oil industry. Thus, some stakeholders may be very hostile about some project and certainly unlikely to help with the project’s success. Local readers may recall the sabotage at Waihopai Station, described by the then PM as a “senseless act of criminal vandalism”, when three “peace” activists deflated one of the Waihopai domes with sickles, causing a cost to us hapless taxpayers in excess of $1 million.

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When we know more about what each stakeholder wants, we can prepare a summary on the agreed-upon expectations and contributions of each stakeholder. We can circulate this, although make sure it’s not a version that contains any private/personal comments. An important reason for identifying and understanding stakeholders is that it allows us to recruit them as part of our project effort.  Here are some things that most stakeholders want:

  • – To know what’s in it for them. Many people are motivated by knowing what the benefit is for them (WIIFM). Depending on our project this could be one (or more) of several reasons possibly including an easier life through a better process, faster turnaround times for key activities, the opportunity for career advancement, a bonus or a chance to make more money, enhanced job security, recognition etc. If we can point out what personal benefit they will be receiving then we’re more likely to get them to engage with our project.
  • – To know what’s in it for the organisation. People also like to understand the big picture. Project sponsors should get this already but stakeholders from other areas of the organisation may need us to explain it to them. In effect, this is a five-minute version of the business case – the rationale for the investment.
  • – To trust us. Stakeholders need to be assured that they can trust us. They want to feel comfortable that we won’t repeat confidential information or gossip about them behind their backs. They need to feel that we have personal and professional integrity and that we’ll be acting in an ethical way. We must remain accessible and engage in open and frequent communication with our stakeholders, allowing them opportunity to voice concerns, be heard, and address important issues in a timely manner. By ensuring ongoing, and inclusive dialog with stakeholders we create an atmosphere of trust and allow for faster identification and resolution of issues as they arise. To gain stakeholder trust, as a project manager we must demonstrate we are trustworthy, respect stakeholder’s ideas and abilities, and resist the urge to micromanage.
  • – To see our capability. Whether we are aware of it or not, stakeholders are judging us on how capable they perceive us to be. They want assurances that we are a capable project manager – a safe pair of hands. They need to feel that we have the relevant skills required to get this project done and if we don’t have the skills ourselves, that we know where to source them. “Relevant skills” means different things for each project but as a minimum we must be able to plan, schedule, report on status, handle the budget, manage risk, deal with issues, communicate and lead the team.
  • – To know we are committed. Project sponsors want a project manager who is committed to the project. They don’t want to be briefing a new project manager every few weeks. They want assurances that we are in it until the end. Stakeholders also want to know that we are committed to the project vision. We need to understand it, articulate it to others and show that we are doing that. Stakeholders want to work with a project manager who will not undermine the project goal and objectives by being off-hand or indifferent to the mission.
  • – To be indemnified. Stakeholders also want to work with project managers who won’t screw up. Everyone knows that mistakes happen and sometimes we can’t foresee every issue. But in general, stakeholders want assurances that we have their intersests in mind and that we aren’t going to make their situation worse.

3. Prioritise them

Prioritising our project stakeholders is sometimes referred to as stakeholder analysis or stakeholder mapping, and is a way of determining who among our project stakeholders can have the most positive or negative influence on our project, who is likely to be most affected by it, and how we should work with stakeholders with different levels of interest and influence.

Each stakeholder will have their own level of influence based on their role in the project and on their hierarchical position. Knowing who has the most influence helps us project managers balance the weight of the various opinions and interests of the people involved. We prioritise our list of stakeholders, remembering that those who might be the most influential might also be the least important at this time. Stakeholder influence often changes during the life of the project, so we go back to our prioritised list regularly and review who we should be spending our time with. A common grid for plotting each stakeholder in terms of their influence (power) and interest is shown below. This grid can be drawn on a whiteboard or flipchart page and Post-it Notes representing each stakeholder placed in the appropriate quadrant. Thus, the first step in stakeholder management is to understand clearly where each stakeholder lies in this grid. “Influence” is the power which stakeholders have over a project – to control what decisions are made, facilitate its implementation, or exert influence which affects the project negatively. Influence is perhaps best understood as the extent to which people, groups or organisations (ie, stakeholders) are able to persuade or coerce others into following certain courses of action.

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Some of these stakeholders may have the power to either block or advance our project. Some may be interested in what we are doing, others may not care. Common classifications are: “unaware, resistant, neutral, supportive or leading” and this assessment process is on-going throughout the project life. The four grid categories are explained here:

  • – High influence, interested people. These are our top priority project “promoters” who we must manage closely. These are the people we must fully engage, listen avidly to and make the greatest effort to satisfy.  These key stakeholders to project success are likely to provide the basis of a project “coalition of support” and are potential partners in project planning and implementation. They’re the ones who can really make our project go, and they care about and are invested in our project. If they’re positive, they need to be cultivated and involved. Allow them to contribute substantively to our project, so they can feel some responsibility for the effort. Pay attention to their opinions, and accede to them where it’s appropriate. If their ideas aren’t acted on, make sure they know why, and why an alternative seems like the better course. As much as possible, make them integral parts of the project team.
  • – High influence, less interested people: These are “latents” to be handled with care, cultivated and kept satisfied. We put enough work in with these people to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored with our message. We need to monitor them for change in their interest level. They are people and organisations largely unaffected by our project that could potentially be extremely helpful, if they are convinced that the effort is important either to their own self-interest or to the greater good.       We have to approach and inform them, and to keep contact with them over time. We might offer them opportunities to weigh in on issues relating to our project, and demonstrate to them how our project will have a positive effect on issues they’re concerned about. If we can shift them over to the promoter category, you’ve gained valuable allies.
  • – Low influence, interested people: These are “defenders” to be kept informed. We talk to them to ensure that no major issues are arising. These people can often be helpful with the detail of our project. We monitor them for change in their influence or impact. We can simply keep them informed and not worry too much about involving them further. However, they can provide the volunteer time and skills – particularly an advocacy. They may be the foot soldiers who stuff envelopes, make phone calls, and otherwise make an initiative possible. They are also often among those most affected by an effort, and thus have good reason to work hard for or against it, depending on how it affects them.
  • – Low influence, less interested people: These are our “apathetics” who have only minimal involvement. We monitor them and keep them informed. These people and organisations simply don’t care about our project one way or the other. They may be stakeholders only through their membership in a group and our project may have little or no impact on them. As a result, they need little or no management. Keep them sporadically informed and don’t offend them, and they won’t bother us or get in the way.

4. Engage with them

Neglecting to engage with key stakeholders early and often is a common mistake. Engaging and communicating with our stakeholders is ongoing, proactive and iterative, which can be achieved through a variety of channels based on who the stakeholder is. We aim to increase their support for the project or minimise their resistance and need to know how they are likely to feel about and react to our project. We also need to know how best to engage them in our project and how best to communicate with them. We identify the stakeholders’ preferred method of communication. If our intention is simply to inform the public, then public hearings are often useful. The various public meetings held by the project manager Stephen Fuller prior to the establishment of the Karori Wildlife Reserve (now Zealandia) were most effective. Key stakeholders were the Sanctuary Trust, Wellington City Council, the Department of Conservation, Victoria University, Iwi, Regional tourism organisation, financially supporting citizens, and local residents. The fence surrounding the reserve was a ground-breaking design with its predator-proof top hat, fine wire mess wall and underground skirt – a fascinating project in its own right.

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Other than public meetings, common stakeholder engagement techniques include educational workshops, talks to community groups, brochures, newsletters, expert panels, interviews, surveys and telephone hotlines etc. The key is to develop a comprehensive understanding about our stakeholders – what they care about and how they relate to our project. Depending on the category of stakeholder, the extent of our engagement with them is summarised here:

  • Inform. To provide balanced, objective, accurate and consistent information to assist stakeholders to understand the problem, alternatives, opportunities and/or solutions.
  • Consult. To obtain feedback from stakeholders on analysis, alternatives and/ or outcomes. We acknowledge their concerns and aspirations. We will keep them informed, listen to and acknowledge their concerns and aspirations, and provide feedback on how their input influenced decisions.
  • Involve. To work directly with stakeholders throughout the process to ensure that their concerns and needs are consistently understood and considered. We will work with them to ensure that their concerns and aspirations are directly reflected in any alternatives developed and provide feedback on how stakeholder input has influenced decisions.
  • Collaborate. To partner with the stakeholder including the development of alternatives, making decisions and the identification of preferred solutions. We look to them for advice and innovation in formulating solutions and incorporate their advice and recommendations to the maximum extent possible.
  • Empower. To place final decision-making in the hands of the stakeholder. Stakeholders are enabled/equipped to actively contribute to the achievement of outcomes. We will endeavour to implement what they decide.

For a more comprehensive explanation about stakeholder engagement methods and their benefits and limitations please check here. Some useful questions that can help us further understand our stakeholders are these:

  • – What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of our work? Is it positive or negative?
  • – What motivates them most of all?
  • – What information do they want from us?
  • – How do they want to receive information from us? What is the best way of communicating our message to them?
  • – What is their current opinion of our work? Is it based on good information?
  • – Who influences their opinions generally, and who influences their opinion of us?
  • – If they are not likely to be positive, what will win them around to support our project?
  • – If we don’t think we will be able to win them around, how will we manage their opposition?
  • – Who else might be influenced by their opinions? Do these people become stakeholders in their own right?

The tasks of converting the negative or skeptical may be a challenge. Sometimes, the stories of those who have or will benefit from the project can be effective motivators for people who might otherwise be indifferent. Such stories are particularly powerful if the listeners know the people involved.  And we should not assume that stakeholders who oppose our project are irrational and irrelevant.

Some possible guiding principles when engaging with project stakeholders are:

  • – Responsive and reciprocal. We understand that engagement is a two-way process and appreciate the benefits of mutual learning.
  • – We commit to seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially interested or affected by our project, including those that are harder to reach for reasons such as language, culture, age or mobility.
  • – Impartial and objective. We will make efforts to ensure information is accessible and objective and facilitate engagement with all stakeholders who have an interest.
  • – Open, transparent and trusting. We will provide information so stakeholders can participate in a meaningful way and will foster a culture of sharing ideas.
  •  We will value stakeholders and use their input to improve project outcomes. We will actively listen to and understand stakeholder needs, seeking to understand how they want to be engaged, based on their particular circumstances.

Of course project management textbooks assume that stakeholders are universally compliant, rational and available. The reality often is that some of them will not even read emails or attend meetings, and are completely irrational!  They might even be completely opposed to the project for any number of personal and professional reasons. After all, stakeholders are people, which means that they are potentially irrational, selfish, tribal and proud. They probably like authority, influence, money, status.  And sometimes they don’t like other people, and mostly they don’t like change. We need to be able to turn those people around. With regard our project team we need to be honest with them, talk to them much more than we think we need to and have some fun together.   Bringing people and organisations into the process and moving them toward the upper right quadrant of the stakeholder grid generally demands that we keep them involved and informed by:

  • – Treating them with respect, but make each stakeholder aware of our need to balance their needs with others’ needs.
  • – Providing whatever information, training, mentoring, and/or other support they need to stay involved
  • – Finding tasks or jobs for them to do that catch their interest and use their talents
  • – Maintaining their enthusiasm with praise, celebrations, small tokens of appreciation, and continual reminders of the effort’s accomplishments
  • – Engaging them in decision-making
  • – Employing them in the conception, planning, implementation, and evaluation of the effort from its beginning
  • – In the case of those who start with little power or influence, helping them learn how to gain and exercise influence by working together and developing their personal, critical thinking, and political skills.

Difficult stakeholders. Bottom of Form. Despite all our efforts to mitigate disputes with difficult stakeholders, there will be times when issues will crop up. In response, there are things that can be done to resolve issues, regain support and buy-in, and move ahead in a positive way. Here are a few of the stakeholder behaviours that can be encountered during various stages of the project lifecycle:

  • – The passive aggressive stakeholder may say they are in support of the project, yet object or create obstacles to derail or delay it at every opportunity. They may consistently and unnecessarily find issue with other stakeholder’s input or contributions; creating additional unnecessary work all the while verbalising their commitment to the project.
  • – The antagonist or intimidator may initiate arguments with other stakeholders or subtly or overtly put down their contributions, creating an environment of animosity and mistrust among team members.
  • – The saboteur can be just as devastating, if not more because the damage is done behind the scenes and it’s harder to isolate and resolve. Stakeholders can be quietly manipulated long before the effects are noticed and identified.
  • – The victim of circumstance may look to blame others for work not completed or missed deadlines and unsuccessful outcomes. It is important to note, that there may be times where missed outcomes can be due to the fault of others, but it’s important to know when this is really the case.

We may have encountered other non-productive behaviours – or possibly been guilty of some of these ourselves at one time or another. It’s important to note that stakeholders often bring valuable knowledge and experience to the table. Some opposition can be a great thing, if the purpose is to offer up different perspectives, present alternatives and mitigate risks for the good of our project. The difficult part is being able to determine the stakeholder’s true intent.

Identify stakeholder motivations for the difficult behaviour. It’s also important to identify the root cause of the issue, discuss it with the stakeholder directly and gain their feedback. Sometimes the cause may be something that impacts only one stakeholder, or it may impact other stakeholders. One thing you really need to avoid is the situation in which a problem between you and the stakeholders developing into a personal issue. You need to always remember that you are in a professional relationship with your stakeholders and that can’t be allowed to change into anything else. If the stakeholder gets personal with you then it is your job to remind them of this fact.

Work on a resolution with the stakeholder that does not negatively impact others or impede the success of the project. It is important to note, there will not always be a solution that meets with the approval of a difficult stakeholder, and during those situations it’s critical to respectfully convey the reason for another decision in order to enlist their continued support and commitment to the overall business objectives.

Ignoring difficult stakeholder behaviour is not a strategy that will work; this is not the time to be indirect either. The behaviour may be a sign of bigger underlying issues may have existed from the beginning and may snowball later. Take the time to immediately and directly determine the cause with the stakeholder, find an appropriate resolution and move ahead. Remain fair, respectful, objective, and professional, and remember to keep the project objectives within focus.

In order for a resolution to be successful, the stakeholder will need to be accountable for their past and future behaviour and actions, in relation to their contributions, and how they impact the team and the project. Have the stakeholder assist you in coming up with some solutions that will enable them to re-establish buy-in and commitment to the project.  It will also be important to ensure the solutions are implemented and measured, and do not change the desired goals and objectives of the business.

Without understanding why a stakeholder has become difficult or why buy-in has been lost, it’s impossible to successfully proceed with a project without continued friction. That said, there may be times when despite all efforts by us to resolve issues, the stakeholder may simply have no intention of working cohesively with the team. In situations like this, difficult decisions may need to be made.

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As projects generally create change, and that change can bring about stress, fear, and significant disruption, organisations will increasingly rely on us project managers to know how to transform difficult stakeholders into engaged and committed stakeholders for successful projects and business results. Conflict has a bad reputation and most of us avoid it, even bullies. While we don’t want an emotional confrontation, facing a difficult stakeholder is often the only way to make the trouble go away permanently.

Sometimes projects mean staff redundancies. Of course there may be suitable alternatives to redundancies that should be explored, such as:

  • – Change the position from full-time to part-time.
  • – Shorten the number of days worked each week, or the number of hours.
  • – Negotiate a job-sharing arrangement.       There may be another employee who is willing to job share so they can take time off to handle personal responsibilities or perhaps study.
  • – Move the affected employee to another position in your business.

  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Finding the perfect balance between too much information, which can lead to unnecessary distractions and just enough information to take proper action, is an important part of the art of our stakeholder management. One of the challenges that we face is related to sharing relevant information with each of the stakeholders – and how to do this. Setting up project collaboration tools will be an immense help in communicating project details to the appropriate stakeholders. We use a variety of communications tools to get our message across and keep our stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the project. Thus, some principles of stakeholder engagement ate:

  • – Communicate: To ensure intended message is understood and the desired response achieved.
  • – Consult, early and often: To get the useful information and ideas, ask questions.
  • – Remember, they are human: Operate with an awareness of human feelings.
  • – Plan it: Time investment and careful planning against it, has a significant payoff.
  • – Relationship: Try to engender trust with the stakeholders.
  • – Simple but not easy: Show your care. Be empathetic.Listen to the stakeholders.
  • – Managing risk: Stakeholders can be treated as risk and opportunities that have probabilities and impact.
  • – Compromise: Compromise across a set of stakeholders’ diverging priorities.
  • Understand what is success: Explore the value of the project to the stakeholder.
  • – Take responsibility: Project governance is the key of project success

6. Evaluate

As with anything else we do, it’s important to monitor and evaluate how well stakeholders have been identified, understood, and involved in the course of our project. It’s obviously best to involve stakeholders from the very beginning, but it’s never too late to learn from what we’ve done so that we can improve our work. Evaluation of the stakeholder process should be an integral part of the overall project evaluation effort, and stakeholders themselves should be involved in developing that evaluation. They can best tell us what did and didn’t work to pull them in and keep them engaged. Here are some evaluation questions we might consider:

  • – What could you have done to better identify stakeholders?
  • – Which strategies worked best to involve different populations and groups?
  • – How successful were you in keeping people involved?
  • – Did you provide any training or other support? Was it helpful? How could it have been improved?
  • – Did your stakeholder analysis and management efforts have the desired effect? Were they helpful?
  • – Did stakeholder involvement improve the work, effectiveness, and/or political and community support of the effort?

The answers to these and similar questions could both help us improve the current project and make a big difference the next time .

In conclusion, in order to achieve a positive outcome from our projects, good stakeholder management practices are required. Stakeholder management is the effective management of all participants in our project, be they external or internal.

Arguably, the most important element in stakeholder management is communication, doing which we project managers must spend most of our time.

Practical stakeholder management

My latest domestic project was the construction of a lengthy fence on uneven ground designed in part to keep Robbie the dog inside our bushy section. Already the dog seems curious about what’s on the other side instead of posing properly for this photo. Now I’m hoping the fence is high enough to do the job, otherwise an enhancement project will be needed – perhaps electrified razor wire on top? Yes, Robbie was a stakeholder, but it is difficult to properly engage with a dog over such an issue.

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Anyway, boundary fence design and construction can be a challenging exercise in stakeholder management. My wife, daughter, dog, the builder and the neighbours were key stakeholders in this project, and fortunately not the local city council in this instance as we did not need building consent. I found that first up it was essential to talk with my neighbours, agree the fence line, the type of fence to be built, who will build the fence, the estimated total cost, and the start date for the project. While my neighbour was very positive and helpful throughout, I later reflected on how difficult the project might have been without such amenable stakeholders. If we want to build a fence between our property and our neighbour’s we don’t need to negotiate forever about how it should be done or who will pay. The NZ Fencing Act sets out our rights and obligations. If we can not reach an agreement, or our neighbour refuses to pay half, there is a formal process we can follow that involves negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation in that order.   However, with good stakeholder management we need not proceed beyond negotiation. Of course a written contract is always helpful.

Exercise

People are concerned about a new dam which has been proposed in their valley. The dam will help provide drinking water for the town. It is decided that the project should focus on ensuring that the views of those affected are listened to so that their livelihoods are not adversely affected. Make any reasonable assumptions. Your job during the next 20 minutes is to identify and record in preparation for discussion:

  1. The different possible external stakeholders of the proposed dam project, saying whether they are primary or secondary.
  2. Who should be encouraged to take part in the project planning and implementation, and identify useful alliances which could be built upon.
  3. Risks which might involve conflicts of interest and expectation among stakeholders.




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