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Vishwadeep Khatri

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder Engagement

 

Stakeholder is any one who has a stake in or are impacted or are interested or can influence a project or any initiative that an organization is undertaking.

 

Stakeholder Engagement is the process or strategy of engaging with all the stakeholders (for a project or initiative) in a way that they support, influence and help (remove the bottlenecks) implement the change.

 

An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below.

 

Applause for the respondent- R Rajesh.

 

Review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.

Question

Q. 201  Success of cross functional projects for Business result improvement is highly dependent on the ability of Project Leader to engage stakeholders. What are some of the most powerful techniques for involving stakeholders early in a project? 

 

Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R

Among the factors that hinder the progress and success of a project, the inadequate involvement of stakeholders is quite common. The reasons for not involving stakeholders are many. Sometimes enough efforts aren’t taken to identify the stakeholders. Some times the team takes a ‘cautious’ approach and keeps postponing the involvement of certain stakeholders, saying that it is better to involve them after showing some success on the project. Sometimes the team fears that certain stakeholders, if involved in the beginning could put too many questions and retard the project.

However, with the experience with many projects, successful or otherwise, it is seen that the risk of not involving the right stakeholders is much higher than any perceived risk by involving them. The very first step is to identify the stakeholders relevant to the project.

 

1.     Involve key leaders during project identification

There are some stakeholders who will be part of even identifying the project.  Identifying potential stakeholders across functions, who could be leaders of key functions and involving them to rate and prioritize the list of projects is a good beginning to build ownership.  A tool such as Pareto Priority Index would help bring objectivity.

 

2.     Project Chartering

Once project is identified, certain stake holders associated with the project will be obvious while preparing the project charter itself. For instance, a project that has to improve a business process will identify the concerned process owner(s). The requirement of Subject Matter Experts, who need not be full time members of the project would emerge. While estimating the financial worthiness of the project, it will be important to involve appropriate staff from Finance function.

 

3.     SIPOC

While preparing the high level SIPOC, it is possible to identify stakeholders who may be suppliers or customers to certain process steps or could be even enablers. For example, a project involving a process improvement in Data aggregation services that may call for mass testing will require high bandwidth management. Hence the early involvement of IT support function may be essential to avoid an otherwise potential hurdle in due course.

 

4.     Stake holder Impact

All stake holders would not be equally impacted by the project. It is very important to understand the stakeholders on whom the impact is high and winning their confidence would help in obtaining their support on the project. On the other hand, there will be stakeholders on whom the impact is low, but their support, expertise or authority are required during certain stages of the project. The leader has to keep in mind that these stake holders are always kept in the loop with necessary involvement. Preparing a table laying out the extent of stakeholder impact will be useful tool for their involvement planning

 

5.     Stakeholder Involvement planning

While, not involving a stakeholder adequately can cause issues while the project progresses, over involvement of a stakeholder is also not desirable. Over involvement could result in grabbing too much of the stakeholder’s time and later lead to withdrawal tendencies. Sometimes it could result in too much influence of a stakeholder into the project. Hence it helps to plan in advance, to identify which stakeholder(s) should be involved at various process steps and also the degree of involvement – could be low, medium of high. A process map with extended columns to include the stakeholder’s involvement and degree of involvement will not only help in planning but also will remain as a reference document during the course of the project. This may be referred as Stakeholders Involvement plan

 

6.     Stakeholder communication plan

At each stage of the project plan the communication to stake holders – what should be communicated, at what point of time, extent of communication. Any good communication matrix will be helpful. There could be certain projects that involves customer value-add. In such projects including the customer as stakeholder for the project and necessary planning for involvement and communication apply. Interestingly I remember leading a customer value-add project where one of our competitors was a stakeholder!

 

7.       During Project involvement of stake holders

Though the above discussion covers some practices the early involvement of stakeholders in a project, we will also touch up on the selective involvement in further areas:

a)       For Identifying root causes

b)      For identifying / selection of final solutions and actions

c)       Obtaining stakeholder buy-in on solutions

d)      Sharing of results with stakeholders

e)      Appreciating and thanking stakeholders

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Before we even look into the techniques, i feel its worth mentioning who is a stakeholder.

 

A stakeholder is someone who is positively or negatively impacted by a work(which can be an activity, a process, a task, or a project which can produce a service / product).  The stakeholder can be either involved(read as person/team, who is doing the development/creation/shaping) in the work or be a recipient of that work. 

 

 An organisation can have many stakeholders.Some Stakeholders are influential enough to determine the successful outcome of  the specified work that they are associated with (for simplicity sake, let us call that as 'project' for further discussion in this article). 

 

In this specific context,  we are focusing on the influential stakeholders which are more likely to be the recipients of the project's outcome(either a service or a product). With this introduction, let us move to some of the key techniques which can be quite useful while engaging the stakeholders in the early stages of a project.

 

There are some quite a number of factors which are key while engaging the stakeholders especially during the beginning stages of a project.

1. Stakeholder Identification 

2. Understanding the stakeholder expectation and needs

3. Prioritization of needs

4. Stakeholder Consent and Acceptance .

5. Early feedback from Stakeholders

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There are no winners this time. Benchmark Expert view by Venugopal is the perfect response for this question.

 

Project Identification approaches like Metrics drill down, Project Charter creation, scoping methods like SIPOC are great for involving the Stakeholders. 

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