4) Plan it!: the fourth principle of stakeholder engagement
A more conscientious and measured approach to stakeholder engagement is essential and therefore encouraged. Investment in careful planning before engaging stakeholders can bring significant benefits.
Why is it important?
Practitioners take the trouble to plan their project activities and even plan to control the technical and physical risks to ensure project success and delivery. However, we often overlook the human factor and Human Factors Integration (HFI).
Furthermore, when applying stakeholder tools to manage the HFI, it is easy to fall into the trap of these activities simply becoming "tick box" exercises. By investing time in understanding where stakeholder power and risk resides, and planning strategies and risk mitigation, there can be a better chance of achieving the project outcome.
What does it cover?
This principle encourages practitioners to understand and evaluate the scope of stakeholders’ expectations and aspirations, their influence and commitment, and then to carefully plan before engaging with them in order to:
- Develop the most appropriate methods to engage with stakeholders ‘face to face’ applying limited project resources to best effect.
- Develop strategies to bring the project stakeholders ‘on board’ through dialogue and planned, agenda’d meetings.
- Develop and manage the stakeholder groups versus project lifecycle to manage expectations and negotiation preparation.
- Keep stakeholder strategies up to date to enable agile engagement and effective communication.
How might I do it?
Identify the priority stakeholders (e.g. those of high influence but displaying low support) against the project phases. Map their influence, develop a ‘heat map’ and keep it updated.
Create a specific tactical plan of actions to bring these stakeholders ‘on board’ for example:
- To explain aspects of the project that stakeholders do not know about or understand.
- To resolve or mitigate concerns that stakeholders have about the project.
- To consider stakeholders changing views about the project scope and requirements.
- To bring together stakeholders and reconcile differing views.
Assign these actions to project team members.
Engage with stakeholders and record feedback.
Review as a project team.
Use the links below to find particular examples and sources that are relevant to this principle.
- Stakeholder engagement in a globally distributed software project
- Global teams and stakeholder engagement
- Organisational change and stakeholder management
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a public infrastructure project
- Stakeholder communication and engagement in a city based transport project
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a software delivery project
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a IT system delivery project
- Stakeholder communication within a project team
Patterns and tools
- All for one and one for all!
- Time on reconnaissance is seldom wasted
- Stakeholder Turnover and Late Entrants
- Stakeholder Analysis
1 Bourne, Lynda. (2017) Stakeholder Relationship Management Gower.
2 Tom Taylor & Robert Dee (2015) Sixteen Stories: For Managers Of Projects Programmes and Enterprises. Dashdot Publications
3 Bourne, Lynda. (2015) Making Projects and Programs Work: What Really Matters For Achieving Successful Project And Programme Outcomes Taylor and Francis
Benefits of applying this principle include:
- Increased transparency and confidence across the stakeholder community especially with the project sponsor.
- A clear direction of travel and means for measuring project success.
- Visibility of the amount of effort required to effect stakeholder engagement and facilitation.
- Improved chances of successful project delivery.
- Improved task recording, scheduling and resource allocation.
- Early identification of commercial and organisational uncertainty leading to mitigation plans being implemented.
Risks of overlooking this principle include:
- Influential stakeholders' agendas and expectations can be overlooked or misunderstood.
- "Working blind", the project team will waste time and client money and significant surprises can impact the project.
- Without a formal stakeholder plan, stakeholders can make their own arrangements and undermine others as they see fit, leading to unsuccessful delivery of project and outcomes.
- The commercial and organisational risks at the outset of a project can be immeasurable.