Whether you are dealing with day to day business operations, or you have a special project to deliver, how often do you take time out to reflect on who your stakeholders really are? If you are moving your organisation forward, this will inevitably involve change at some level. People can react in strange ways to change, particularly when you’ve not properly communicated. It can leave people that are important to the process feeling left out in the cold and disengaged, or even worse, it can enrage people and they may start to actively try to ruin your plans.
We deal with all sorts of change situations and these are our top tips:
- Commit the right resource – this is mission critical and you shouldn’t delegate to the office junior. Top level direction is vital if you are to do this justice.
- Think about the project from all angles – who is currently involved? Who should be involved? Who are your major supporters and opponents? Who is important to you, even if they show little interest? Who is very vocal, even if they have little direct influence? Be as broad as you can be at this point to identify any potential stakeholder. Don’t forget your Board and senior executives – if you forget to engage and reassure them it could be career limiting!
- Prepare your risk matrix – this will help to reassure yourself that you’ve covered all the angles. Remember a risk is not just negative; you should also be thinking about the opportunity cost of not taking positive risks.
- Develop your stakeholder engagement plan – a vital tool that sets out who you need to engage, how, when and why. This is a live document that will change daily as you start to deliver it.
- Listen – when you move towards delivery of your plan you need to keep your eyes and ears open, for direct and indirect feedback. If you are engaging face to face with your stakeholders, listen and watch for what they are not saying as much as what they are. If you have broader stakeholder groups that you don’t meet face to face (e.g. general public) then ensure you actively keep an eye on social media, other media channels and community meetings to make sure you are not missing something. Make yourself available by having a website/other means that encourage people to reach out to you if they want a conversation.
- Consider your feedback – once you have an understanding of how your plans are being received, consider the feedback. This doesn’t necessarily mean changing everything but you do need to seriously listen to other views and consider whether or not your stakeholders are identifying common themes that need addressing. No doubt you will receive varying different views depending on the individual agendas you are dealing with. You need to take a step back and consider the value of the feedback. Does it give you an ethical dilemma? Have you found something you weren’t expecting? This should not be lip service. You are looking to add value to your final plans as well as secure ‘buy in’ from influential stakeholders to support better delivery of your objectives.
- Act and refine – you should be responding, respectfully, back to your stakeholders at this point. We use a ‘You said, we did’ approach where we set out very clearly the impact their feedback has had.
- Review you stakeholder list – is it still current or does it need an update given the changes?
- Repeat as necessary – depending on the timeline of your project you may have to repeat multiple times, but it will make your journey towards delivery easier and lead to a better project.
Other resources that might help: