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How to Engage Stakeholders


Who is a stakeholder?

A stakeholder is a person, group or organisation that is interested or concerned with an organisation’s project. Stakeholders can affect, or be affected by, your project. Examples of stakeholders include directors, employees, suppliers and unions.

Stakeholder buy-in is critical!

As a project manager, I’m sure you have heard the words, “Make sure you get buy-in from your stakeholders” and “Stakeholder Buy-in is critical”. This is easier said than done because stakeholders may support or oppose your organisation’s decisions or processes. Which then begs the question, “How exactly do you translate the words “Buy-in” into meaningful action steps to obtain sustainable stakeholder buy-in?

Below is the key principle that drives stakeholder engagement and the 4 steps that I have found valuable in going from words to action.

Key principle for “buy-in”

The key principle for stakeholder buy-in is “Continuous Engagement”.  An engaged stakeholder is far more likely to participate in and own their part of the success of the project than a stakeholder that is left out in the cold.  

It is essential to involve all stakeholders in the decision-making process; not only will this ensure their support, but stakeholders can also provide and elaborate on opinions and new ideas that may not already be apparent in the organisation’s structure.

Steps to “engage” your stakeholders

 Follow these 4 steps to engage your stakeholders:

1. Identify your project stakeholders:

Having a few key stakeholders is a good starting point for a project. When it comes to selecting stakeholders, you should target specific stakeholders you want as well as be open minded and inclusive of other stakeholders for the broader perspective of your project.

Use the scope of your project as well as the recipients of your expected project benefits to determine and identify the stakeholders of your project. Take into account stakeholders across the entire project lifecycle. Potential stakeholders could be suppliers, employees and customers.

2. Prioritise your stakeholders:

The level and intensity of engagement will depend on the interest and involvement of the stakeholders in your project. Work through your stakeholder list and determine the level of engagement you believe is required by assigning each stakeholder an engagement level, i.e.:

·         Monitor (minimum effort)

·         Keep satisfied

·         Manage closely

·         Keep informed

3. Understand your stakeholders:

Where possible, meet with your stakeholders to understand them better and to test the validity of the engagement level you assigned them. This understanding will help you decide the most appropriate way to engage them. For example, face-to-face, email, group sessions, etc.

4. Compile the stakeholder engagement plan:

Armed with the list of stakeholders and the most appropriate way to engage them, devise a practical plan that communicates as effectively with your stakeholders as possible. When devising a plan, remember to:

  • Continuously review your engagement plan throughout the year
  • Compare your progress with your goals on a regular basis
  • Measure all your efforts
  • Use captured data to determine whether or not  your efforts are effective

With your plan in hand, all that remains is that you now engage your stakeholders as per your plan. Also remember that the key to execution is to revise your plan as you obtain feedback from you stakeholders.

Learn more about project management.

ion is to revise your plan as you obtain feedback from you stakeholders.

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