What is Stakeholder management

Guide: Stakeholder Management

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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

Stakeholder management is important for engaging with those who hold a stake in your continuous improvement projects. It is a strategic process that ensures all potential influences on a project are identified, understood, and managed effectively. In the dynamic landscape of project management, particularly within the framework of Lean Six Sigma, the ability to adeptly navigate stakeholder relationships is indispensable. This guide explores the integral steps of stakeholder management, from identification to engagement to laying the groundwork for successful project outcomes by aligning diverse interests with overarching project goals.

Table of Contents

What is Stakeholder Management?

Stakeholder management is a process that is important for the planning and execution of any project, particularly a continuous improvement project where buy-in and collaboration from a range of stakeholders are important to success.

Communication LearnLeanSigma e1697379033147

The process of stakeholder management includes several core activities:

Identification: Recognizing all the individuals, groups, or organizations that may affect or be affected by the project.

Analysis: Assessing and understanding stakeholders’ various attributes, including their interests, influence, expectations, and potential impact on the project.

Planning: Determining how and when stakeholders will be engaged and communicated with throughout the project lifecycle.

Engagement: Involving stakeholders through appropriate communication, consultation, and participation strategies.

Monitoring: Keeping track of stakeholder engagement, their concerns, and their evolving position regarding the project

The main aim of stakeholder management is to align the stakeholder’s expectations with the goals of the project to ensure a smoother implementation and an improved chance of success. It also aims to minimize the risk of stakeholders impeding the progress of the project if they have concerns that are not sufficiently addressed.

Identifying Stakeholders

Identifying stakeholders is a key first step in the stakeholder management element of a project as the risk of overlooking important stakeholders can result in unexpected challenges that could derail the project.

When kicking off the project, it is important to identify stakeholders by running a mini brainstorming session to identify who are all the stakeholders of the project. This would include obvious ones such as customers and employees, but may also include less obvious stakeholders such as regulators and interest groups for larger projects.

Once you have the list of project stakeholders it is important to analyze them with a tool like the Stakeholder prioritization matrix

Stakeholder-Prioritization-Grid

This is a visual representation that helps in understanding the relationships between different stakeholders and the project. They can help in visualizing influences, conflicts, and cooperation among stakeholders.

After identification, stakeholders are typically categorized to prioritize their needs and determine the level of engagement required:

High Power/High Interest: These stakeholders have significant influence over the project and care deeply about its outcome. They should be fully engaged and frequently communicated with.

High Power/Low Interest: They have the power to impact the project but may not have much interest in it. Keep them satisfied but not so much inundated with information that they become overwhelmed or disinterested.

Low Power/High Interest: These stakeholders are interested in the project but have little power to influence it. They can often be very helpful with details and project support, so keep them informed and engaged.

Low Power/Low Interest: They have minimal interest and influence and require less attention. However, monitoring their stance is still important as it may change.

Understanding Stakeholders

Within project management, it is important to understand stakeholders beyond who they are, you need to understand their perspectives and expectations about the project.

When analyzing stakeholders, ensure you understand their interests and concerns and what their expectations of the project are. With the stakeholder matrix, you understand the influence and power of the stakeholder, but you should also consider the potential impact a stakeholder might have on the project, both positively and negatively. This can involve considering the best and worst-case scenarios of stakeholders’ actions and reactions.

Finally, you should also understand and consider the most appropriate communication method for each stakeholder; this could range from formal reports to quick emails or face-to-face conversations. To keep stakeholders on your side, you should communicate in a way that they are most comfortable with. This shows consideration and meeting them halfway so that they can be more supportive of your project.

Engaging Stakeholders

Continuously through the project, you will need to engage with your stakeholders and will need to utilize engagement methods such as communication plans, which are plans that detail through the project what will be communicated, when, how, and to whom.

Lean Six Sigma Communication Plan Template

Engagement of stakeholders goes beyond just communicating; it also requires a level of involvement in decisions, allowing stakeholders to provide input into decisions that directly impact them. This increases buy-in and reduces the chance of resistance to change.

Additionally, regular updates should be provided to stakeholders on the project’s progress through newsletters, email updates, or dashboard reports.

Finally, consider feedback mechanisms to establish clear channels that stakeholders can use to provide feedback.

Managing Stakeholder Influence

Your project likely has some senior and influential stakeholders; these can be complex to manage, particularly if they are not favorable toward your project and see it as a distraction or inconvenience.

To manage this you should Identify key supporters and involve them closely in the project. Use their influence to gain more support and resources.

Additionally, develop plans to reduce the negative impact of stakeholders who are opposed to the project. This might include one-on-one meetings to address concerns, negotiate, or compromise. And for those indifferent to the project, strategies might include demonstrating how the project aligns with their values or interests to gain their support.

Monitoring and Adapting

Throughout the project, stakeholders will not remain static; their interests and influence can evolve as the project progresses. During the project, periodically reassess stakeholder positions and the effectiveness of engagement strategies. Are stakeholders responding as expected? Do they have new concerns or ideas?

If stakeholders’ preferences for information change, adjust the communication plan accordingly. This could mean changing the frequency, method, or content of communications. Be prepared to manage change effectively. If stakeholder attitudes shift significantly, you may need to implement change management practices to realign their expectations with the project goals. Finally, use stakeholder feedback to make informed decisions about the project. This should be a two-way process where stakeholders not only provide feedback but also see that their input has been considered and acted upon.

Stakeholder Management Tools

To support your project’s stakeholder management, feel free to use our stakeholder management templates

Stakeholder Matrix Template

Stakeholder Prioritization Matrix Template - Feature Image - Learnleansigma

Communication Plan Template

Communication Plan Template - Feature Image - Learnleansigma

Conclusion

Effective stakeholder management goes beyond recognition of interests; it requires active and adaptive engagement, consistent communication, and an understanding of the shifting landscape of influence. As projects evolve, so too should the strategies for stakeholder interaction. By implementing a responsive and considerate approach to stakeholder management, project leaders can foster a collaborative environment conducive to success. This guide provides a blueprint for such engagement, ensuring that stakeholders are not only heard but are essential contributors to the continuous improvement journey, ultimately steering projects towards their objectives with the collective support and insight of all those involved.

References

A: The Stakeholder Prioritization Matrix helps project managers categorize stakeholders based on their level of interest and influence in the project. This categorization aids in tailoring engagement strategies to ensure effective communication and stakeholder alignment.

A: Assessing interest and influence often involves a mix of quantitative data and qualitative judgment. Surveys, interviews, and past interactions can provide insights. Additionally, organizational hierarchies and roles can help determine influence levels.

A: Absolutely! Stakeholders’ interests and influence can change as the project evolves. Regularly reviewing and updating the matrix ensures that engagement strategies remain relevant and effective.

A: Stakeholders in the “Monitor” quadrant have low interest and influence. While they don’t need frequent engagement, it’s essential to keep an eye on their stance and update them occasionally to prevent potential issues.

A: While not every project mandates it, the matrix is beneficial for projects with diverse stakeholders. For smaller projects with limited stakeholders, a simple list might suffice. However, for larger or more complex projects, the matrix becomes an invaluable tool for clarity and strategy.

Author

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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