Organizational Development Consultant

Managing stakeholders when the stakes are high

April 8, 2015

In this blog I share insights from Clive Mallard of The Independents’ Consultant, who articulates sound advice for consultants or project leaders managing a project involving significant change.

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Let me start with a definition. When I refer to business stakeholders I mean, individuals or teams within the business who will either be impacted by a change being proposed or who will have an influence on the decisions that will be required.

Using a client example, here’s what we did.

1.) Developed a comprehensive stakeholder map.

Firstly I worked with the project leads to identify who were the stakeholders that we needed to engage. We did this in a visual but structured way, using a large sheet of blank paper on the project room wall.

We started by defining the decisions that would be required for project approval and then agreeing the key decision makers for each – these individuals formed our initial set of stakeholders. We wrote these on the top of our big sheet of paper. Then we identified all the business areas that touched our project, captured these on post-it notes and stuck them underneath the decision makers’ names. The decision makers’ business areas were a good starting point for this. Then for each business area we brainstormed potential stakeholders and listed these. In terms of seniority we kept the stakeholders within a couple of levels of the key decision makers for the project. It was helpful referring to organisation charts to do this as fully and accurately as possible.

Next we assessed the relative importance of each stakeholder to the project (high, medium or low) and finally assigned accountabilities from the project team to engage each stakeholder.

This was the foundation of our stakeholder map – that was subsequently transferred to an Excel spreadsheet. It’s worth taking plenty of time to create your stakeholder map –  after all this will be critical to your project success.

2.) Set up a stakeholder engagement process. 

The next step was to set up a process to engage these stakeholders effectively. That involved deciding how best to engage each – so should it be face to face (always preferred for priority stakeholders if possible), teleconferences (where diverse locations make it difficult to do a face to face) or some other method – and then creating a schedule to do it.

And of course we had previously assigned accountabilities for each stakeholder from within the project team so we were ready to go.

3.) Managed stakeholders according to that process.

The next stage for us was to rigorously follow this process!

In our project, we created columns on our excel stakeholder map to capture the dates of each stakeholder engagement , what the agreed next steps were and any insights the stakeholders provided. You may wish to do the same. Don’t forget to always complete the next steps.

A point for you to remember is that all your stakeholder engagements are meetings in some shape or form so the the meeting checklist from the last email will be helpful for you.

Finally we reviewed the schedule every month and re-planned as necessary.

So that was it – a pretty simple process but incredibly effective and important.

There is no doubt that effective stakeholder alignment was a crucial enabler to the successful outcome of the project. When the critical Board approval meetings came around, all the issues were known by the Board members and what took place was more a discussion of the points of contention rather than a presentation of the recommendations.

Stakeholder Alignment is vital for every client project at whatever phase of the business transformation process. Excelling at this can mean the difference between success and failure for you and your client projects.

Copyright © 2014 Business Fusion Limited T/A The Independents’ Consultant, All rights reserved.

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Find out more about Clive’s on-line learning module on stakeholder alignment by going to his web site: www.TheIndependentsConsultant.com

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