Stakeholder Engagement

What do - making and communicating decisions, rolling out change and customer service all have in common? All the key stakeholders are aligned and engaged on what it takes to succeed.

According to Wikipedia: Stakeholder engagement is the process by which an organisation involves people who may be affected by the decisions it makes or can influence the implementation of its decisions. They may support or oppose the decisions, be influential in the organization or within the community in which it operates, hold relevant official positions or be affected in the long term.

Buy-in is essential for success in stakeholder engagement. Every party must have a stake in the process. Every party must be committed to the process by ensuring action based on the decisions made through the engagement. Agree or disagree there is commitment to deliver because everyone has had the point of view heard and the benefits of the final decision have been made clear.

Engaged stakeholders are motivated, purpose driven, committed to doing what it takes to succeed. They participate in both the positive communication and execution of the choices that are made.

"A true architect is not an artist but an optimistic realist. They take a diverse number of stakeholders, extract needs, concerns, and dreams, then create a beautiful yet tangible solution that is loved by the users and the community at large. We create vessels in which life happens." ~ Cameron Sinclair

Why do we find it so hard to engage all our stakeholders?

1. It takes time and effort to prepare

- Often stakeholders are not clear on the 'rules of engagement' i.e. when will they be asked to contribute, how will the receive feedback, what if they do not agree, what will be communicated etc. It is important for everyone to understand each party's role.

- Ownership of decision-making and the decision-making process may also not be made clear i.e. who has the ultimate responsibility to decide, how will input be gathered, what happens when there is disagreement, etc.

2. We know their are different types of stakeholders:

Low interest, low influence – those you need to keep informed

High interest, low influence – those you need to involve and consult with

Low interest, high influence – powerful stakeholders you need to engage

High interest, high influence – partners you need to collaborate with

It can be a daunting and time consuming task to engage appropriately and we know we are going to get resistance. That real or perceived resistance can put us off doing it well.

3. Lack of a clear purpose.

When you have a vision of what you want to achieve, the engagement process becomes more meaningful for all involved.

4. Lack of flexibility

- On how you will inform, consult or collaborate with them. Face-to-face? One-on-One? On-line collaboration tools? Phone? Group Meetings? Likely you will need a number of tools and approaches to engage stakeholders and they need to appropriately map to the type of stakeholder they are (see 2. above)

- How willing are you to really listen to alternatives? To make compromises?

There are several key benefits of engaging stakeholders in your decision-making process. With a variety of stakeholders with varying levels of interest and influence there can come unique insight into issues. You can leverage stakeholders to secure resources (people, money, assets, time etc.) to assist you with your decisions or project. Involving stakeholders can build trust, which can ultimately lead to increased consensus for your project or final decision. It can also increase transparency and lead to better decision making.

"When trust is high, the dividend you receive is like a performance multiplier, elevating and improving every dimension of your organization and your life.... In a company, high trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation, strategy, engagement, partnering, and relationships with all stakeholders." ~ Stephen Covey