Stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management are, without doubt, fundamental for project success, but, despite this, they are often considered a marginal activity.
Stakeholder engagement is instead an essential and at the same time broad topic.
It includes gathering and sharing information, managing concerns and complaints, measuring the impact and importance of different stakeholder groups, efficient communication and more.
This is why we decided to dedicate this article to how to plan stakeholder engagement.
The stakeholder engagement plan
As with any other business process, the stakeholder engagement process should be systematic, logical and practical.
This process can be represented in cyclic form. It is a constant process and lessons learned from past experience determine future planning and commitment.
The process is not linear, rather it is an iterative process.
The organization learns and improves its ability to engage with significant stakeholder involvement. This improvement takes place while relations of mutual respect are developed, which replace the one-off consultations.
Understanding the stakeholders
Identify the urgency they feel for their problems, the legitimacy of their interest and the power they have to impact on the organization in general. Have an understanding of their motivations, goals and problems, and which of these are actually the problems of the project. In this way it will be possible to outline the priority stakeholders.
For general success, it is important to get during this phase:
Fair representation of all stakeholders.
Provide information and proposals that respond directly to the expectations and interests of previously identified stakeholders and not only to information that responds to internal goals and activities.
Provide detailed background information to stakeholders who must draw fair and reasonable conclusions.
Be realistic in the negotiations regarding expectations, needs and goals. This will help to reach an agreement and create trust.
The consultation process includes personal interviews, workshops, focus groups, public meetings, surveys and other participatory tools. It is important to choose the relevant process for each stakeholder group; one model does not fit everyone.
Respond and implement
Monitor, evaluate and document
Knowledge management is essential in order to acquire information and share what is learned. The transparency of the process is greatly helped by accurate documentation. Remember to report to stakeholders on progress, in a form and language understandable by them.
The golden rules for optimal stakeholder engagement
- Internal alignment of the organization in terms of expectations, roles and results. Being flexible will help achieve this, as well as appreciate the different points of view, pressures and business goals.
- Building a relationship of trust with the stakeholders is very important, helped by an understanding of their points of view and their motivations. Project managers must therefore evaluate the level of trust in relationships but not be too hasty in their judgment.
- Understanding the motivations of stakeholders and the organization and being transparent can help overcome differences. Recognizing that the fundamental motivation of each part may be very different from another. However, understanding and articulating this difference can already help fill in the gaps.
- The organization must recognize the importance of the opinions and commitment of the stakeholders. It is essential that the organization as a whole appreciates the contribution that stakeholders make to the overall success of the company.
- It is important to plan commitment and communication in a way that encourages everyone’s point of view.
- The organization’s culture will have an impact on how stakeholder engagement occurs. For this reason the assessment of the corporate culture is important to identify the enabling factors and the obstacles to the activities of stakeholder involvement.
- Evaluating a past non-productive involvement will help the organization learn from past experiences. It is therefore important to collect this information from the point of view of the organization and the stakeholders.
In conclusion, organizations can no longer choose if they want to interact with stakeholders or not; the only decision they have to make is when and how to successfully engage with them.