Stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management are arguably the most important ingredients for successful project delivery and are key to building long-term relationships. Yet they are often regarded as business-as-usual functions.
How familiar does the adage ‘two steps forward, one step back’ sound to you? I would put money on you being able to think of an instance in every project you have ever been involved in. That’s not a dig at you, not at all, it’s simply a universal truth.
Why is that though? In my opinion is its grounded in the fact that humans change their minds and if you ask someone for their point of view, they will find something to say. Quite often those innocuous comments set in motion a chain of events, that left unchecked, could result in a re-brief.
So, if we agree this is commonplace, we will need strategies to maintain project momentum. Textbooks will tell you that its all about adequate planning. Disciplines like stakeholder mapping, man marking and influence analysis, that if used correctly will set you up for success. I wouldn’t disagree with the importance of any of these in principle, quite the opposite I would encourage you to implement them. However, accepting changes are inevitable means that you will also need to have an arsenal of tactical tools under your belt.
Some describe stakeholder management as an art, others as a science, but all unanimously agree it’s about action. You need to work at it, manage it if you will.
You will need to acknowledge everyone’s position and pick your battles. Recognise, when obstacles are immovable and adapt as new information is presented. Communicate, both early and often. Monitor the little things that if left to fester could derail even the best laid plans. And finally, never forget to listen because what you first hear as a challenge in one area, may very well turn out to be a solution for another.
So, I encourage you never to stay passive and hope it will turn out ok. Be active! Because believe me the sense of ownership and pride when you pull it off is worth all the toil.
As Kipling wrote; “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you… yours is the earth… And—which is more—you’ll be a ‘Stakeholder Manager, my son!”.
Ok, a fair bit of creative licence there at the end but isn’t that the industry we are in?