Seven steps for successful stakeholder management
How do you organize successful collaboration while interests diverge? By what processes can the most optimal results be achieved for all involved?
These are questions that have occupied me with great interest for many years. From project groups to complex political processes, it is always about people finding each other and developing a common vision. A widely shared opinion must develop among those involved about the goal and the roadmap: consensus and support.
I have developed my seven steps for successful stakeholder management on the basis of research and further completed it with practical experience from international standardization, project management and process management.
Multi stakeholder projects
Stakeholders are persons and organizations and also more abstract things such as 'the environment' that influence and/or are influenced by the project.
In multi-stakeholder projects, multiple stakeholders are involved and for a good result the interests of all stakeholders must be taken into account as much as possible. The project can focus on goals within an organisation, or on collaboration between organisations.
The complexity of these projects is determined by the number of stakeholder groups and the diversity and contradiction of their interests and opinions in relation to the result to be achieved. Where multiple groups are involved, interests and opinions almost always diverge due to different backgrounds, perspectives and levels of knowledge.
My approach has seven steps that are followed in the three phases of the project.
While many stakeholder management approaches assume that the stakeholders are already known, my approach starts with a structured method for mapping all stakeholders.
Having a clear picture of the right stakeholders is crucial for successful stakeholder management.
Phase 1 – Stakeholder mapping
Step 1 Identification of relevant stakeholders is the first step for stakeholder mapping. By using a structured approach for this, many stakeholder groups that were initially overlooked become apparent.
Step 2 Classification of stakeholders by categorising them on the basis of certain characteristics and their position in relation to the project. This forms an important basis for the next step:
Step 3 Activation of stakeholders by approaching them, mapping their points of view and relationships and involving them in the project.
Phase 2 – Project implementation
Step 4 Designing a project means determining the goal of the project, the scope and the intended outcome (output) of the project.
The project management approach is also determined, whereby the approach can vary from a project approach to a process approach. The project approach is applicable if the problems and solutions are reasonably stable and the project can be linear and structured. The process approach focuses on unstructured problems, where both the problems and possible solutions are not widely accepted and can change over time due to new information and new views. These are the two extremes of the scale at which the project can be positioned to determine the most appropriate project management approach. The way in which the project management, the governance, is established, depends on the goal, the scope and the project management approach.
Step 5 Building consensus is aimed at achieving a successful end result in collaboration with all parties involved. This starts with getting commitment to the process from all stakeholders and agreeing on the process rules of the project. Various tools and techniques are available for aligning stakeholders. These are aimed at obtaining and maintaining commitment from the stakeholders and creating a common vision or consensus.
Step 6 Establishing consensus means that those involved commit to the end result. This end result and the commitment of those involved are explicitly captured in a form that is appropriate for the project. This project completion is important in order to be able to continue building on the project results and to be able to enter the next phase of maintaining the result.
Phase 3 – Maintaining project result
Step 7 Management of change means that control cycles are used to monitor that the project result is being maintained. It is important to determine how and by whom this is monitored. Sooner or later there will be a need to change things. Clear agreements must be made about this in order to prevent these changes from leading to an erosion of the project result.
Ultimately, revision of the project result may be necessary if the fit between the solution it offers and the problem is no longer there. In that case, a new project is started. The starting situation is different, so all steps have to be completed again.