Copy Code

Stakeholder engagement – let’s start with why

Save for later

Favourite

Why is stakeholder engagement so important to the project management community? This is the topic of an APM webinar on June 28th and whitepaper by programme manager Benedict Pinches that is due to be published on the same day. Is this seemingly philosophical point worth spending time on when actually what busy project and programme managers need are practical solutions for a growing list of people-related challenges? Yes, I believe that it is. In my experience, the best way to work out how to do something is to start with why you need to do it.

Understanding the WHY enables you to figure out the HOW

You may be familiar with Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why”. His focus is on how to inspire others by creating an emotional connection of shared values and purpose. While this is relevant in particular circumstances such as team building and motivation, that’s not the point I want to make. I think the value of ‘Starting with why’ is more fundamental as I believe it underpins three key project management capabilities.

  1. Analysing options

For project managers seeking advice on how to approach stakeholder engagement, the APM’s Stakeholder Engagement section on the website provides a rich resource of information but no ‘how-to’ manual, because the problem with stakeholder engagement is that there is more than one way to approach it. Unfortunately, presenting project managers with so much information risks ‘stakeholder engagement’ getting put on the ‘do tomorrow’ list, or simply delegated because the task of learning and assessing options feels too difficult.

Understanding why they need to engage with stakeholders provides project managers with a filter to make choices about the information available, making the task of engagement feel more achievable.

  1. Adapting to change

Many industries (eg. food & drink, health & safety, finance) have learned that just defining processes to mitigate risks ends up creating a tick-box approach and expectation that compliance will result in success. According to the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), “The [financial regulation] compliance industry was built around the idea that everything will be OK if firms comply with a set of rules." And we know where that ended up.

For project managers, dealing with an ever growing and complex set of issues requires careful thought by everyone involved. A shared understanding of the intention of stakeholder engagement underpins the ability of the people at the ‘coal-face’ to identify and manage change with stakeholders, rather than sticking to a process and reacting to events.

  1. Communicating effectively

According to Dr. James T. Brown in an APM / GoToMeeting webinar last year, poor stakeholder engagement is often caused by project managers communicating at ‘project level’ ie. in terms of what’s important to the project manager. Instead communication needs to be at ‘stakeholder level’. I agree but let’s be honest, this is difficult to achieve even for people with good communications skills.

In my own work in the IT and engineering industry where the language of individual teams can be quite opaque, I have found that moving the conversation to why something needs to be done enables people to work together more effectively by connecting them through a shared language. Focusing on ‘why’ rather than ‘what’ removes the barriers of jargon and seemingly irrelevant detail from the conversation, improving the ability of stakeholders to understand and engage, and increasing the capability of project teams to exchange information more effectively.

Why is stakeholder engagement important?

The forthcoming whitepaper addresses the topic of stakeholder engagement holistically, setting out a number of arguments underlining the need for us to take stakeholder engagement more seriously. In reality, why stakeholder engagement is important changes with the project lifecycle, the people involved and the challenges that are presented at the time. However, take a moment to read the paper, or listen to Ben’s webinar, to think about the overarching principle of stakeholder engagement. To pinch the analogy of sailing, keeping an eye on where you’re ultimately trying to get to enables the skipper to spot if adjustments need to be made on each leg of the journey.


 

Fran Bodley-Scott

Posted by Fran Bodley-Scott on 19th Jun 2018

About the Author

Fran Bodley-Scott is a specialist in marketing and communications, customer relations and stakeholder engagement. As a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Marketer she applies marketing creativity, process design and system thinking to support project and programme delivery and business change. She is a thought leader in applying marketing thinking inside the organisation to improve operational efficiency and value delivery. She's developed a number of tools such as the ABCDE communications model and PMO Marketing framework to help teams engage and collaborate with people across the organisation. Fran has many years experience working in a range of industry sectors including IT, automotive and aerospace engineering, packaging manufacturing, professional services, project & programme management and social media. Her company, Marketing In Control Ltd, provides marketing services, training and coaching. Fran is an associate member of the APM, and a volunteer member of the Stakeholder Engagement Focus Group, part of the APM People Specific Interest Group (SIG).

Comments on this site are moderated. Please allow up to 24 hours for your comment to be published on this site. Thank you for adding your comment.
{{comments.length}}CommentComments
{{item.AuthorName}}

{{item.AuthorName}} {{item.AuthorName}} says on {{item.DateFormattedString}}:

Share this page

Login or Register to leave a comment:

Recommended blogs

Five things to remember

4 October 2016

Save for later

Favourite

Save for later

Favourite

Recommended news

Improving the effectiveness of communications webinar

11 July 2017

The improving the effectiveness of communications webinar write up and resources, following the APM People SIG webinar on Tuesday 11 July 2017.

Save for later

Favourite

Stakeholder engagement, communications or knowledge on working abroad – who cares?

21 November 2017

On Thursday 16 November the People SIG held an afternoon workshop in London, with the aim of bringing people together to share their good and bad practice knowledge and help to shape improvements for the future to assist others.

Save for later

Favourite

Join APM

Sign up to the APM Newsletter.