When involved in projects or even thinking about your own career in a complex organisation, it is really important to get stakeholders engaged if things are to go well! Involving and engaging stakeholders will improve project quality and help you win resources and support. So what do you need to actually do?
Step One - Identify your stakeholders
Make a list. Stakeholders are people, groups or organisations that have an interest in or might be affected by the outcome of a project. Stakeholders could include...
- Professional associations
- Prospective customers
- Prospective employees
- Industry trade groups
Step Two - Prioritise your stakeholders
Use a simple power, interest grid to classify your stakeholders so that you are clear about who you need to put the most time into. This will put your stakeholders into four key groups...
- High power, interested people: these are the people you must fully engage and put the most time into making happy!
- High power, less interested people: put enough work into keep them satisfied, but ensure you don't bore them.
- Low power, interested people: keep these people informed, and talk to them to ensure there are no major issues arising.
- Low power, less interested people: monitor these people, but do not bore them with excessive communication.
Step Three - Understand your stakeholders
Go and ask them what they think of you and your project. Get feedback. Ask their opinions. As a result of this, you can classify your stakeholders as red, amber or green (negative, neutral or positive).
Ask yourself some of the following questions about your stakeholders to enable you to do this well...
- What interest do they have in your work?
- What is their current opinion of your work?
- What motivates them?
- What information do they want from you?
- How do they want to receive information from you?
- What is the best way of communicating your message to them?
- Who influences their opinion of you?
- What might win them around to support your project?
- How will you manage their opposition?
- Who else might be influenced by their opinions? Do these people become stakeholders in their own right?
Step Four - Take action to engage your stakeholders
Work out a plan of who you need to communicate with, how often and by what method.
- Conference calls
- Discussion forums
- Document co-authoring
- Online surveys
- Project blogs
In communicating, negotiating and influencing your stakeholders, always remember to focus on the 'what's in it for them'. Choose appropriate communication methods, both traditional and digital and use them to let your stakeholders know what's going on, to consult them, to plan with them, to build relationships, to demonstrate empathy and to reach consenus about the shape of your project.
Go get those stakeholders engaged!