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Are you feeling mature?

Software development, project management, and risk management all have maturity models that set criteria to allow organisations to measure the level of institutionalisation of good practices. 

I think it is time that stakeholder engagement management also had a maturity model.

Engaging with stakeholders is a vital aspect of effective project management: averting risks, identifying opportunities, and bringing hearts and minds along for the ride. It is also an activity that is increasingly worthy of professional training and standards. Few organisations are successfully rolling out training but I have encountered a couple, and these seem to me to be leading the way. Ironically, the first I came across is in the public sector.

Quite right too: the public sector is in the business of engaging with the public. But the stereotype does not envisage the public sector innovating and getting there first.

But the materials I saw were basic: clearly aimed at first line managers with little experience. Don’t get me wrong: basic is good. But what training does your organisation give to senior practitioners in the advanced techniques for managing a stakeholder engagement campaign, and winning over antagonistic stakeholders?

To me, it seems self-evident that organisations should put stakeholder engagement front and centre of their culture. Customer focused business do this to a limited extent, focusing on one group of stakeholders with a particular impact on their commercial success: what about the rest? The first step to creating a stakeholder engagement culture has to be to take it seriously and assess your own cultural maturity.

My modest proposal offers a basic stakeholder engagement management maturity model. Others will doubtless be better qualified to develop this into a rigorous tool. What matters most is that you start to consider the questions it raises for your orgaisation, and I’d love to hear from you if you do.

Level 1 - Ad hoc
No formal processes, nor recognition of the need for one. Any good work is done independently by individuals. Tools are shared informally among committed individuals and freely adapted, resulting in little or no uniformity.

Level 2 - Novice
Awareness of the need for a systematic approach. Project and change management guidelines state requirements for stakeholder engagement management with little more than generic guidance and no substantial training available. Tools are “home-made”.

Level 3 - Repeatable
First documentation of stakeholder engagement policies and procedures is produced, with responsibilities allocated and some training available.  People are aware of shortcomings and gaps. Simple tools are available centrally.

Level 4 - Managed
Clear metrics are established to guide implementation and decision making. Formal procedures are followed and individual levels of expertise are recognized, with formal training and development available. Sophisticated tools are available.

Level 5 - Embedded
Stakeholder engagement is embedded in all organisational processes and is a part of the day-to-day culture. Knowledge, skills and techniques are constantly reviewed, with the organisation seen by others as a source of excellence and its senior practitioners regarded as leading experts.


Dr Mike Clayton is the author of The Influence Agenda, published by Palgrave Macmillan – www.theinfluenceagenda.co.uk

APM members can claim exclusive discounts on The Influence Agenda and a range of Palgrave Macmillan titles, click here for more details.

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  1. Mike Clayton
    Mike Clayton 11 October 2014, 10:44 AM

    ... and to Mr Weaver too.  I was genuinely unaware of Dr Bourne's book and certainly meant no offence in claiming that it is time for stakeholder engagement to have a maturity model. It seems it now has two at least. I will put my hand up to having missed this in my research, but the fault was not intentional.The upshot is that the community now has two slightly different models to debate, integrate and adapt in two, doubtless, quite different books. It is a shame that Gower's pricing policy will make Dr Bourne's book less accessible to practicing project managers than it should be, so I applaud her generosity in making her work on stakeholder relationship management maturity readly available and am happy to again direct readers to: http://www.stakeholdermapping.com/srmm-maturity-model/. To Mr Murray's point, I was aware of the excellent work that Cabinet Office (and before it OGC and CCTA) have been producing in the UK with the help of senior practitioners over many years. It was one of their publications that finally decided me to make the switch in terminology from 'stakeholder management' to 'stakeholder engagement'. However, there are many commercial sector and international practitioners who will be unaware of these manuals.Finally, it is worth noting that I intended my book for a wider audience than the dedicated project management community that APM represents. There are many practising PMs out there who do projects as a part of their role, but would never identify project management as either their career or professional focus. Many are also managing change in their organisations and not even calling it project management. My book is written as much for them as for the PM community. So, whilst I should have become better aware of Dr Bourne's work; I would not expect them to.Once again, apologies for my error.

  2. Patrick Weaver
    Patrick Weaver 11 October 2014, 06:42 AM

    The concept of a stakeholder maturity model is presented as a new idea - it is not!  The Stakeholder Relationship Maturity Model (SRMM) has been available for years.  The model was first published by Dr. Lynda Bourne in a paper presented at the PMI Global Congress held in Malta in 2008 and is included in her book Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation (first published 2009, now in its 2nd Edition). The SRMM outline is available free of charge from http://www.stakeholdermapping.com/srmm-maturity-model/  The book itself is not difficult to find - Dr. Bournes book is one of the Gower books available to members as part of the APM Membership Offer advertised on the front page of this website, and is readily available from the publisher at: http://www.gowerpub.com/isbn/9780566088643   For the record, the 5 levels of SRMM are:Ad hoc:   some use of processesProcedural:   focus on processes and toolsRelational:   focus on the Stakeholders and mutual benefitsIntegrated:   methodology is repeatable and integrated across all programs and projectsPredictive:   used for health checks and predictive risk assessment and management.To understand how these levels are assessed download the 2008 paper from: http://www.stakeholdermapping.com/srmm-maturity-model/srmm-implementation/  His proposition that very few organisations have anything approaching a mature stakeholder management methodology is certainly correct and needs to change.  However, representing ideas that have been in the public domain for the last 4 to 5 years as new to help promote the sale of Dr. Clayton's book indicates sloppy research at best. 

  3. Andy Murray
    Andy Murray 08 October 2014, 08:57 PM

    Hi MikeYou are spot on.  But, were you aware that the Cabinet Office model - the Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3) - has stakeholder management as one of its 7 perspectives.  This means you can assess stakeholder management maturity as a stand alone assessment.Best regardsAndy