5) Relationships are key: the fifth principle of stakeholder engagement
Developing relationships results in increased trust. And where there is trust, people work together more easily and effectively. Investing effort in identifying and building stakeholder relationships can increase confidence across the project environment, minimise uncertainty, and speed up problem solving and decision-making.
Why is it important?
Building relationships is a natural human instinct that often ‘opens doors’ or influences outcomes that cannot always be achieved by following plans and processes alone. There are a number of human factor and Human Factors Indicators (HFI) that reflect relationship and trust. These ‘shoulder to shoulder’ working practices and alliances help reduce barriers, build rapport, instil confidence and fuel progress.
"You need relationships big enough to get the job done", Steve Radcliffe "Leadership Plain and Simple"
What does it cover?
This principle recommends the conscious decision to invest planned time, care and effort in stakeholder relationships. It is a capability that comes more naturally to some than others and requires practice.
It has something to do with; ‘when we are in touch with what we care about and can engage people to come with us on the journey, that can lead us into worthwhile and meaningful project based relationships’.
In that regard, personal qualities such as self-awareness and mindfulness, respect for others and courage may be required to build relationships that are trustworthy, open and honest.
How might I do it?
- Identify the hierarchy of stakeholders.
- Create personal and group stakeholder profiles.
- Construct relationship maps.
- Match who needs to engage with whom and when.
- Be professional, authentic at all times.
- Build trust and confidence by managing and meeting expectations, operating with integrity, keeping promises, being dependable.
- Think about how you can help your stakeholders, not just how they can help your project.
Use the links below to find particular examples and sources that are relevant to this principle.
- Global teams and stakeholder engagement
- Organisational change and stakeholder management
- Stakeholder engagement in an international research and development project
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a software delivery project
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a public infrastructure project
- Stakeholder communication and engagement in a city based transport project
- Stakeholder communication in a school extension project
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a hostel development project
- Stakeholder communication improvements in a IT system delivery project
- Stakeholder communication in a mining company corporate initiative
- Stakeholder communication within a project team
- Stakeholder communication in a historic building refurbishment project
Patterns and tools
- All for one and one for all!
- Just how important is this project?
- Pressing the Flesh
- Time on reconnaissance is seldom wasted
- Stakeholder Turnover and Late Entrants
- People Styles
- Stakeholder Analysis
1 Boulton, Robert and Dorothy. (1996) People Styles at Work Ridge Associates.
2 Bourne, Lynda. (2017) Stakeholder Relationship Management Gower.
3 Radcliffe, Steve. (2010) Leadership Plain and Simple Pearson Education Limited.
Benefits of applying this principle include:
- Increased mutual trust and confidence.
- Reduced stress and a more pleasant working environment.
- Speedier and better problem solving and decision making.
- Added value in bidding and improved chances of retaining clients and staff.
- Personal development, maturity and career advancement opportunities.
- Better equipped to deal with challenging circumstances.
- Candour, openness and honesty to inform learning.
- Legacy to progress with future endeavours.
Risks of overlooking this principle include:
- Greater project risk impacting time, cost and quality.
- Greater known and unknown resistance to the project.
- Fractured project management.
- Reduced team motivation.
- Lowered cohesion across the project community.
- Loss of personal and company reputation and recrimination.