By Lynda Bourne
Stakeholder engagement is an essential part of project management. Chances are your organization focuses on stakeholder engagement but uses another name for the activity.
From an organizational perspective, stakeholder engagement is a means to achieving outcomes increasingly seen as necessary to comply with various rules and regulations or meet customer or community expectations. Here are some terms you’ve probably heard that have stakeholder engagement at their core.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Stakeholders increasingly have expectations about the behavior and responsibilities of organizations that go beyond the provision of jobs and products or services. CSR is generally defined as the continuing commitment by an organization to improve the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large.
The social responsibilities of organizations arise in the context of stakeholder relationships. No two organizations are likely to have the exact same set of responsibilities, because each organization has different products, services and strategies and therefore different combinations of stakeholders and stakeholder interests and issues.
Sustainability in an organizational context goes beyond environmental issues to include every dimension of how a business operates in the social, cultural and economic environment. It is a business approach that creates long-term consumer and employee value and directly contributes to the sustainability of the organization itself.
The Triple Bottom Line (TBL)
TBL is an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental and financial. These three divisions are also called the three Ps: people, planet and profit, or the "three pillars of sustainability." Many corporations are required to report in the TBL framework as part of their exchange listing rules.
(The International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 26000:2010: Guidance on social responsibility, and the Global Reporting Initiative’s closely aligned guidelines set out the framework for social responsibility and guidelines for reporting, respectively.)
What This Means for Project Managers
As project managers, we don’t always have input to organizational policies, but we are at the cutting edge of organizational change. Many projects have a significant impact on stakeholders outside of the organization.
Therefore if your organization’s executives are using any of the terms detailed above and are “walking the talk,” you need to make sure your project activities support the organization’s overall stakeholder engagement philosophy.
Project failures such as the tailings dam disaster in Brazil last month can undo decades of work by an organization to establish a reputation as a good corporate citizen. Building such a reputation is not purely altruistic!
ISO 26000 suggests organizations that practice CSR and sustainability and focus on the TBL have a distinct competitive advantage that includes:
In summary: Project managers cannot create corporate policy. But if the organization is focused on its TBL, the wise project manager will make sure his or her project plan includes proactive stakeholder engagement, and view that engagement as part of a much larger picture.
How much focus does your organization place on stakeholder engagement? How much does it care about CSR, sustainability and the TBL?
Have you been in situations where it seems that only shouting generates results? Or has your team been pressured to complete tasks that don’t appear to benefit your project? Maybe as the project manager, you have been in the middle of confusion and agitation that seem to undermine your project management abilities.
Could it be that many of the scenarios you encounter have their roots in conflicting stakeholder requests and misunderstandings? Well, it’s possible to avoid these types of predicaments. Consider utilizing the following three tools that allow you to have better control of your project and your project team:
1) Communications Plan. Outline a plan with names, contact information, and details on when and what messages need to be delivered to and from you. This tool allows you to know the frequency of message exchanges and the media required for specific contacts.
It also lets you know what level of detail the message should have, i.e., if it is going to a senior manager vs. a member of the supporting team.
2) Stakeholder Analysis. Prepare an analysis of your stakeholders to understand what their roles are and what area of your project is impacted by their involvement. This tool can help you with the department that has the biggest impact all the way down to the departments that have even a small effect.
Additionally, this tool can show how those who are directly or indirectly connected to your project may have an influence that can be detrimental.
3) Project Plan. Develop a plan with the focus on your project objectives and what the project will entail. Organize the plan for what needs to be done and when. The tool should show ownership and timings that you can share with stakeholders to also make them aware of the potential influence of their requests.
Sometimes, we get can get distracted when trying so hard to make sure our projects meet every need. There are many voices, conflicts, risks and events that affect the success of our project. Leaning on these tools may make your stakeholder management process smoother.
The PMBOK 5th Edition Hindi Translation Team Gets Recognition
This piece continues my previous blog posts, “The Techniques That Don't Resolve Conflict” and “The Only Technique That Resolves Conflicts,” which looked at why no technique other than collaborate/problem-solve truly resolves a conflict.
Researcher Bruce Tuckman suggested that a project team generally goes through the forming, storming, norming and performing stages. In this post, I will discuss a team that skipped the storming stage—or, rather, they managed their conflicts so well that they spent most of their time in the performing stage. Fortunately, I was part of the team.
PMI India took up the task to provide the PMBOK Guide—Fifth Edition in Hindi to promote project management in Hindi-speaking regions. The project initiated in February 2013 and aimed to finish by August 2013 so the new Hindi version could launch at the PMI National Conference in Delhi in September 2013. We had only six months, and the team was yet to be recruited. We had to onboard a translator and form a Translation Verification Committee (TVC) of subject matter experts who were native Hindi speakers with sound knowledge of the PMBOK Guide—Fifth Edition.
The cover of the PMBOK 5th Edition Hindi version.
PMI India already had some volunteers for the TVC. We selected a few names and started interviewing. We also tried to persuade people who were part of the TVC for the Fourth Edition to participate. We intended to select eight people for the TVC, but we settled for seven.
Facing and Overcoming the Challenges
After finalizing the team, the kickoff meeting happened on 31 March, 2013. So we had only five months to complete the job. We met the first time to understand each other and set the agenda. We prepared a schedule with our best estimates. It turned out those estimates had us completing the project in October! That was not acceptable, but we decided to start work on the first three chapters and revisit the schedule later. We decided on one face-to-face meeting per month on a weekend and to connect via a conference call in between.
In the first call, we could see what we feared most. There was a lot of discussion to select the right word and sentences, and we couldn’t make much progress.
At the second meeting, the target was to finalize Chapter 1 on the first day, but again there was a lot of discussion about choosing the right word, and we could not complete the chapter. It was a matter of concern now.
We decided to set ground rules:
At the third meeting, we lost one of the team members. Before the fourth meeting, another was transferred out of the country, reducing his availability significantly. Now the only way to complete the project before 31 August was to take less time in review. The only way to do that without losing quality was to keep our conflicts in control. Forming the above rules turned out to be the most critical factor. Obeying these rules reduced unnecessary discussion and considerably improved the pace. We completed all the activities by 27 August, leaving two weeks for printing and publishing.
Working on this project, I closely observed how a team can manage its conflicts and focus on delivering the work. The following five factors were most critical:
Do you have a similar experience or opposite to it? Please share your view.
Hello, project manager? You are needed in the meeting room; you are needed for an online chat; you are needed on the phone.
Typical, right? You may feel overwhelmed if you’re expected to be in all places at once. It can help to realize there are only three realms in which you’re truly needed: physical, mental and electronic. Here’s how to address each.
Physical: If possible, try to be physically present for your team. Walk around and talk to stakeholders, team members and others to gather details about your projects.
This provides you with the current status and tidbits that will allow you to be proactive on your projects. It also lets you build rapport with team members.
Mental: You don’t have to be an expert in a programming language or even in the company’s industry. It bodes well, though, when you have some idea of the jargon for conversations with your stakeholders. You’ll want to be aware of the environment—all the external and internal factors and their impact on your projects.
You’ll also need to stay abreast of the benefits your projects bring to the organization. Project managers have to stay mentally focused on their project’s objectives and bottom line.
Try thinking about lessons learned from previous projects to help you gain understanding of how to address potential problems. Investigate tools that allow you to present project results to all levels of management and team members, too.
A detailed report on planned versus actual data is a source that can be shared in various audience-specific formats. You may be called on at any moment for project results and can rely on these tools to support your efforts to be mentally there.
Electronic: Social media and mobile technology allow people to be reached easily. Apps let you track and stay in touch with others. You will want to take advantage of these programs to gain information and respond to concerns about your projects. In many cases, they allow us to address and resolve concerns more quickly.
No matter how you do it, being a project manager means you have to be accessible. We have to manage our projects, not let them manage us.
Under the leadership of Chia-chun Hung, PMP, Uni radio station of Taiwan has transformed itself.
Hung, whose father owned the radio station, was thrust into management at a young age when his father became ill. After becoming the station’s vice president in 2007, Hung took over the business in 2011 when he was just 28.
He had been endeavoring to improve the operation structure of the station, but with little success. But after learning project management concepts—Hung is the first PMP in Taiwan with a background in radio broadcasting management—he has successfully transformed the fate of the radio station. It’s now the most popular station broadcasting in the central part of the country.
But back in the midst of the global recession, a sharp advertising downturn was crippling the station. To reposition, Hung gave Uni station a new mission: deliver positive messages that promote social change, like “home and family.” The business operation was also transformed from advertising-oriented to program sponsorship.
Hung then translated the station’s mission into a tangible objective—become an influential platform—and embedded this objective into every project’s scope.
“Knowing the objective of your project right at the beginning makes you more focused, more aware of any deviation,” Hung told me in an interview. “In the meantime, we spent a lot time communicating with our stakeholders the concept of our operation, trying to clarify ideas.”
Uni station’s programs consist of two types: those initiated by the advertisers themselves and those initiated by the station. In the former, the station helps the advertisers produce the program and realize their beliefs and ideas. In the latter, programs are produced by the station on its own, and the staff finds the appropriate organizations to sponsor them.
No matter which type, the station takes the lead in the production and helps the advertisers establish their brand’s image. The audience does not hear any advertisements during the program; the name of the sponsor is only given at the end of the show.
Seven years after Hung began Uni’s transformation program, the practice has gained the station a good reputation. Today Uni even “jumps down from the air to the ground,” holding seminars, family activities and campaigns—all in an effort to fulfill its mission.