The Midlands branch were pleased to welcome Ian Cribbs on 1 November 2017, a founding member of the Stakeholder Engagement Focus Group (SEFG). He gave a quick overview of the work of the SEFG, pointing the group to the online resources on the APM Website.
He then moved on to talk about the Project Sponsor. This person is not usually linked to stakeholder engagement, but can be very useful when stakeholder issues arise. Sometimes the project manager can’t balance all stakeholder requirements or needs the Project Sponsor to reiterate the aims of the project to the entire community.
Looking after Stakeholders can be like spinning plates – as fast as you think you’ve sorted one group, another poses a problem. Ian pointed out that a Stakeholder is anyone who perceives the project might affect them. Therefore, your competitors should be stakeholders as the project should affect them.
The group is called Stakeholder Engagement rather than Stakeholder Management. If you have senior managers who are part of your stakeholder group, then they can’t be managed by the Project Manager. This is where engagement and influence is needed.
The main part of engagement is communication. Communicating regularly is mandatory, if the customer doesn’t hear anything - the assumption is you are hiding something. However, don’t assume that all stakeholders want communication daily/weekly /monthly and in person – ask what is wanted. Make sure telephone briefings are summarised so all remember what was agreed. Emails, video conference and letters are all useful means of communication, but the preferred method is still face to face meetings.
The SEFG have pulled together a number of tools and techniques that can be used to help with stakeholder engagement. These include methods for understanding personality, culture and background. Don’t forget to ensure you know yourself so you understand your responses as well as your stakeholders.
Finally, remember that stakeholders can change their influence and impact as a project progresses, especially if it has a long duration. Therefore, don’t assume the map of stakeholders made at the beginning will be the same map at the end. Make sure you review regularly.