A Variety of Concerns
Stakeholders come in many forms: investors, suppliers, employees of the client company, neighbourhood community groups, local authorities, emergency services and special interest organisations such as heritage groups. This inevitably gives rise to a diverse array of concerns and objectives, and the potential for conflict is obvious. For any project to run smoothly it’s essential to have a strategy for managing the interests of all relevant stakeholders. For this to be effective, a system should be in place well before construction work begins.
Identify Stakeholders and Develop a Strategy
Project managers must adopt a methodical approach to identifying individual groups of stakeholders and assessing their requirements. They need to consider the impact of the project on the stakeholder and the stakeholder’s level of influence on the project. This will enable the client organisation to maximise the positive contributions and develop strategies to resolve or minimise the more negative impacts.
Engaging Your Stakeholders
A programme of ongoing engagement with your stakeholders will lead to better understanding of their requirements and concerns. An informal and friendly approach is the key to ensuring a productive and positive relationship for all parties. To this end it’s vital to include them at every step of the process and provide a mechanism that enables them to play an active part. Showing a genuine interest and respect for their concerns is more likely to lead to a positive outcome in the event of disagreement – which is certain to arise in some form or another, given the complexity of any project.
Keep Them Updated
Clear lines of communication and an open and honest approach are imperative. The stakeholders must be fully informed about the goals of the project and the steps the client organisation will be taking to achieve them. The accessible flow of information must continue throughout. Newsletters (emails or hard copies) blog posts and tweets, press releases, radio and television interviews and workshops can all be used to establish and maintain a constant dialogue.
Make no mistake; this has to be a two-way process. The client organisation isn’t simply keeping interested parties informed of progress. It’s about encouraging feedback and providing a means for everyone to provide this. There are many ways to put this into action.
Online surveys, road shows and focus groups, access to telephone help lines and participation in workshops are all ways for stakeholders to contribute. Blogs, tweets and direct correspondence with the Customer Management Team will extend the possibilities even further.
Resolving Issues and Re-assessment
The engagement process is sure to throw up many issues and the client organisation needs to be prepared to evaluate and deal with these. It’s worth bearing in mind that this doesn’t need to be a negative process and in fact really shouldn’t be. Stakeholder input may reveal new information that is of benefit to the project and will enable managers to identify weakness or new and better ways of proceeding. There needs to a willingness on both sides to learn and adapt the approach if necessary, so far is this is practical.
This may not always be an easy task but everyone involved should endeavour to engage with an open mind. Inevitably some issues will not be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. In these instances it’s imperative for project managers to make it clear that the final agreement will be the one that has the best interests of the majority at heart.
Working Together for a Satisfactory Outcome
A well-planned and managed stakeholder programme will help to build an effective relationship with all concerned. It’s unrealistic to expect that all problems can be resolved to the satisfaction of all. However if all stakeholders are engaged in the process from day one and their input regarded as integral to the project, there’s a greater possibility of reaching a consensus and moving forward in a way that will satisfy the majority.
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