Stakeholder management plays an important role in the success or failure of a project. To start with, stakeholder management is always a good beginning for the project. Coming up with the strategy and developing a solid plan for stakeholder management gives you a tremendous head start. There might be some potential risks or natural disasters that can cause problems and challenges in the project as one never knows what is going to happen. But, effective stakeholder management can save you from the unplanned crisis and makes it easier to go through the bad events.
Stakeholder management is about three things: structure, clarity, and timeliness. If these are included in the strategy and the plan you develop, you get a solid foundation to lean on. As the project continues, the strategy can be altered accordingly, and the plan can have the plus and minuses wherever needed.
The question that comes up in mind after reading this is that what can be the proper strategy and how can a solid plan be developed for the implementation of the respective strategy. Several significant aspects need to be included in the strategy and the plan. Following are the 9 major guidelines that will help you in coming up with a strategy and develop a solid plan:
1. Identification Of The Stakeholders
The first important thing is to identify all the stakeholders that are directly or indirectly linked to your project. Map out all the actors that will either be playing an important role in your project or getting influenced by it. Some major stakeholders can include:
- Project team
- Interest groups
- Legal rights holders
- Sponsors and financers
- Product consumers
Even if the project does not need to emphasize each one of it, it is important to identify them. A little change or some potential challenge appearing during the project can highly urge the need to include these stakeholders in the project activities.
Thus, it remains significant to identify and meet the interests of all the respective stakeholders. It can also shape the success or failure of your project. Neglecting, one of these stakeholders can put a bad influence on the outcomes of your project. For example, not identifying the needs and interests of your project team in the project can lead to lesser productivity and zero motivation to perform project activities timely.
You might not get the desired results if one or few of these stakeholders are left unidentified. Therefore, make sure you identify each one of them not to put the results of your project at stake. Identifying is important in the very first stage, the need for giving the level of importance can be decided later on.
2. Prioritize Main Stakeholders Over Secondary Ones
The next important part is to prioritize the main stakeholders of the project over the secondary ones once all the stakeholders are identified. The main stakeholders are the one who has legal rights over the projects or is providing for its budget. They have all the powers to help your activities advance or stopping them once and for all.
Prioritizing primary stakeholders gives the chance to put their needs and requirements as one of the main objectives of the project. Meeting these need and requirements is important as the future, and final results of the project highly depend on these. If the needs and requirements of primary stakeholders are met, their interests are fulfilled, and so, the project is successful. On the other hand, if the scenario is the opposite, the project goes to waste.
Therefore, stakeholders with less influence and interest can be marginalized over the ones with bigger authority and interests. It greatly helps in building a sound strategy.
3. Use Effective Communication Methods To Leave No Gaps
Using effective communication methods is another healthy approach that must be included in the stakeholder management strategy and plan. Relying on efficient and effective communication methods ensures that there are no gaps in the progress of the project and the information that is being delivered to the stakeholders.
Effective communication might base on push communication or pull communication. Both of these are one-way engagement methods. Push communication utilizes various channels such as email, letters, videos, leaflets, and podcasts, etc. to make sure the information reaches the stakeholder. Pull communication includes putting up the information on sources like web-pages etc. It depends on stakeholder to choose whether he wants to engage with the information or not.
Another effective communication method is a two-way engagement. The important tools that help with two-way engagement and communication include meetings, workshops, and live briefing sessions. This ensures both the workers and stakeholders are on the same page regarding project data and necessary information.
Thus, no gaps are left. This makes the strategy sound and efficient as a proper stakeholder communication plan is developed.
4. Communicate With Each Group Equally
When you choose the communication methods for engaging the stakeholders, it is important that communication takes place with each group equally. There must be no internal or external party involved that is lacking behind on the project information. When the communication is not equal, gaps appear. They might lead to hindrances in project performance and deliverables.
With the equal transfer of communication, transparency is ensured. It is important to communicate on time, so maximum transparency is achieved. This leads to enhanced confidence and trust among all the major and minor stakeholders. Also, they feel equally engaged in the project. This brings everyone involved in the project on the same page.
Moreover, this helps everyone understand the objectives, requirements, and approaches of each other better. Equal communication helps in coming up with a healthy strategy as decisions are made together, and actions are taken with each stakeholder’s consent and agreement. This ensures coordination and interaction.
When no group is left behind, the plan can be better implemented.
5. Listen To The Stakeholders As Well To Ensure Their Participation
Management never comes without participation. Making stakeholders feel like they are a part of the team is an important approach to adopt for stakeholder management. It leads to shared responsibility and accountability for either all or for some specific tasks.
Listening to the stakeholders ensures that they are participating positively in the project. If the stakeholders are not listened to, their requirements and interests cannot be identified. In this way, non-participation leads to project failure.
When you listen to the stakeholders, it helps with effective stakeholder management. Due to this, each project stakeholder will be satisfied with the degree of participation they are enjoying in the project. Thus, communication, along with participation, is an important aspect of stakeholder management strategy.
6. Build A Separate Team For Stakeholders And Train Your Team
As a project manager himself cannot deal with all the project stakeholders alone, he needs to develop a team for this purpose. Having a separate team for looking into stakeholder management is a great way to get to stakeholder management. If stakeholder management is the responsibility of the same team who has to do several other project activities, stakeholder management cannot be done effectively as the team would be focusing on other project roles and responsibilities as well.
Therefore, having a separate team is an effective measure for better stakeholder management.
Another important point of focus is team training. Having a separate team alone is of no use as long as the team does not how to play its specified role. As a project manager, you need to conduct various activities and training workshops that clear the path to be taken by the stakeholder management team. These activities might be conducted at the start of the project or throughout the project whenever there is a need.
Hence, team training makes the team aware of how to deal with stakeholders effectively. This leads to productive, stakeholder management.
7. Document All Of These Management Activities To Draft A Solid Plan
Now comes the main point of focus of stakeholder management. A full-fledged plan is always important to give us a strong basis on which we can shape our actions. Now, all of the above management activities, i.e. building and training a team, effective communication methods, and complete project stakeholders participation process have to be documented. This results in a solid plan for stakeholder management.
How to draft a Stakeholder Management Plan step by step?
To have a feasible Stakeholder Management Plan, it is important to focus on the structure of the plan. With a good structure, the plan is readable and can be implemented effectively. If there is no coherence or the information is incomplete, the Stakeholder Management Plan is of no use.
Following steps can be taken to draft a solid plan when it comes to stakeholder management:
- Purpose of the plan: Start with writing the purpose of the stakeholder management plan. This explains how important stakeholder understanding and management for the success of the project is. When you have a clear purpose for any task, performing that task becomes easier.
- Project background: This part of the plan must include a high-level explanation of your project. It contains all the project’s goals and objectives, project deliverables, budget, and timescale to complete the project activities.
- Introduction: This part involves the content of your stakeholder management plan. A brief description, along with the prioritization level of the content, is enough for the introduction. It makes agendas of the plan clear to the entire team and other involved parties.
- Stakeholder communication activities: Next, you can include all the communication activities and approaches you are going to take into account for effective communication with the stakeholders.
- Stakeholder participation approach: This includes all the plans and approaches you will be taking to ensure that the project stakeholders feel like an integral part of the project and realize that their say highly matters.
- Important project stakeholder management activities: This can include all the activities you are going to conduct to make sure project stakeholders are effectively managed. For example, team training workshops, meetings, individual and group assessment activities can be a healthy part of this area of the stakeholder management plan.
- Appendix: Last but not least, the appendix can be made at the end of the plan if required. It can involve the list of all the stakeholders of the project you identified and the stakeholder list that came out as the main stakeholders.
Following this structure of the stakeholder management plan can help in developing a solid plan greatly.
8. Monitor And Report On Your Management Activities To Make Sure They Are According To The Plan
Now, drafting a plan and leaving it on the table is not enough. When you assign the roles and responsibilities to the stakeholder management team as per the plan, it is important to monitor those stakeholder management activities to ensure that the working is done according to the plan.
When you monitor the management activities, it can help you in finding out what is going right and what is going wrong in the stakeholder management. With that identified, you can come up with a proper strategy to overcome all the risks and challenges in the way. Make a report upon on these management activities to have a documented approach towards stakeholder management.
9. Continue Doing The Analysis And Improvements
When the strategy is finalized, and the plan is developed accordingly, you are not supposed to rest here. With monitoring and reporting activities, you will be able to analyze the current and further needs of the project. It helps in deducing the improvements that should be taken to make sure that stakeholder management is being done at best possible level. So, keep analyzing and improving the strategy and plan to come up with the best.
These are the important guidelines for producing an effective strategy and developing a solid plan for stakeholder management. Once these guidelines are adopted, you will be doing your best at stakeholder management. Eventually, you will be led towards the project’s success. Therefore, act on these guidelines to do better and efficient stakeholder management.