10) Take responsibility: the tenth principle of stakeholder engagement
Stakeholder engagement is not the job of one member of the project team. While there needs to be a central focus, who is normally the project manager, it’s the responsibility of everyone to understand their role in maintaining an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, and to understand and follow the right approach to communication and engagement.
Good project governance requires providing clarity about stakeholder engagement roles and responsibilities and what is expected of people who are involved in the project.
Why is it important?
Stakeholder engagement requires a proactive approach to build and sustain stakeholder relationships through the project life cycle. Yet it is often not specifically designated and instead left to a few members of the project team who may or may not have the time, information or capabilities required.
Whether it is in their job description or not, it is vital for at least some members of the project team to take on the roles and responsibilities for stakeholder engagement and facilitation.
What does it cover?
- Providing clarity about stakeholder engagement objectives and strategy, responsibilities and accountability, lines of communication and decision-making, individual roles and expected behaviours.
- Helping team members fulfil their roles and responsibilities by providing the required tools, access to information and training if required.
How might I do it?
- Develop a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix to provide clarity about who has a role in the executing the stakeholder engagement strategy and individual responsibilities.
- Develop processes and practices to ensure team members understand what behaviours are expected for example, follow-up actions after each visit to a supplier or client.
- Ensure team members have the required stakeholder engagement or communication skills and tools.
Use the links below to find particular examples and sources that are relevant to this principle.
Patterns and tools
1 Lewis, Alan and Lewis, Harriet (2012) Leading Through Turbulence: How a Values-Based Culture Can Build Profits and Make the World a Better Place McGraw-Hill Education
2 Werther, William B. and Chandler, David B. (2010) Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Stakeholders in a Global Environment Sage Publications Inc
3 Branden, Nathaniel. (1996) Taking Responsibility: Self-Reliance and the Accountable Life Fireside
Benefits of applying this principle include:
- Visibility and control of stakeholder engagement actions and outcomes by ensuring that team members are confident about executing the communications plan.
- Efficiency and effectiveness by ensuring that stakeholders are engaging with the people who have the particular skills, detailed knowledge or experience required to achieve the required outcomes.
- Risk avoidance by ensuring that any insights and feedback is communicated correctly, and the team has visibility of stakeholder views and issues.
Risks of overlooking this principle include:
- Confusion and delay as a result of key stakeholders not being contacted, or hearing conflicting information from different sources.
- Poor communication as a result of people not knowing the right communication channels to use or being unable to do the job (such as poor presentation skills or no access to social media).
- Individual team members informally shouldering the responsibility for stakeholder engagement leading to them not having time to do the ‘day job’ and getting demotivated.