All projects and organizations struggle with getting stakeholder engagement right. Unfortunately, there are few guidelines, techniques, or case studies available to overcome this common obstacle . A successful project depends on stakeholders’ expectations and perceptions and satisfying these expectations is crucial. Most of the time, stakeholder engagement is considered synonymous with soft skills rather than methodology, which leaves engagement up to chance and the luck of having a charismatic project manager.
But stakeholder engagement does not need to be left to chance! Here are 4 steps to improve stakeholder engagement and obtain valuable support in non-profit sector projects.
Figure 1 – Four steps to engage stakeholders effectively (Trentim, 2015)
#1 Establish What Results Your Stakeholders Care About
The first step is to identify stakeholders, document their expectations and engage them in a collaborative effort to define project purpose and value propositions. Uncovering needs and aligning realistic expectations right from the start is paramount.
To identify stakeholders, there are different tools and techniques, such as brainstorming, organizational analysis, categories, checklists, lessons learned, historical information, benchmarking and expert opinion.
One of the most effective tools is to create and update a Stakeholder Breakdown Structure with common categories or types of stakeholders. In Figure 2, you find a suggestion of stakeholder breakdown structure for an IT project.
Figure 2 – Stakeholder breakdown structure (example)
#2 Develop A Plan to Deliver to those Expectations
Once you have a long list of potential stakeholders, it is possible to analyze and prioritize based on importance and influence. Sometimes, there is a large number of stakeholders and it is not possible to involve all of them in the same way.
That’s when analysis and categories are useful. Based on common interests, individual and group contributions, the project manager can decide on the best strategies to involve and engage persons, groups and organizations.
There are various tools and techniques to collect requirements and define scope. We will discuss some of them in a future article. If you’re curious, take a look at problem structuring methods, collaborative approaches to combine different perspectives into a “big picture” in problem solving.
#3 Work Your Plan!
Now that you have your project plan in place with all the input and help from your stakeholders, it is time to put engagement strategies to work. Project execution is always challenging because it depends on a variety of factors.
It is not uncommon that stakeholders lose interest along the way because they engage in new ventures, raising issues in commitment, buy-in, participation and contributions that were agreed in the beginning.
Never take planning and commitment for granted. Always confirm along the way and frequently review the stakeholder register for new stakeholders and to analyze changes in attitude.
#4 Follow-up and get Feedback (Please Keep in Touch)!
In daily activities of running a project, it is easy to forget the importance of keeping in touch and getting feedback. It is essential to have a process in place to review stakeholders’ satisfaction at every phase or milestone. This prevents problems from growing bigger and jeopardizing the end of your project.
What challenges have you faced in creating stakeholder engagement, and how have you managed them?? What are the main challenges of project management in nonprofit organizations? Any suggestions of tools and techniques we could add to those steps? Please leave your comments below.