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
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