Managing stakeholder relationships is one of the most important and challenging aspects of running a service delivery business, particularly one like ours where we have multiple stakeholders in every engagement. Our aim in working with partners, vendors and customers, is to deliver service excellence, ensuring all stakeholders in the project are more than just satisfied.
As the number of stakeholders in a project increases, so does the list of desired outcomes, the risk of success and the need for clear and concise communications. The more people involved, the higher the risk that not everyone will be satisfied. That said, it’s entirely possible to have multiple stakeholders with differing project requirements and still deliver a successful outcome.
In doing so, many factors must be managed, including the following three key items:
Preventing and Dealing with Communication breakdowns
Everyone knows that communication is key to the successful delivery of any services engagement. By extension lack of, or poor communication often leads to project hiccups and stakeholder dis-satisfaction occurring. The “secret sauce” is the ability to prevent such an occurrence and, should there be a communication issue, to deal with it face on, ensuring that plans are in place for it not to be repeated. Our approach is to ensure clarity of understanding between stakeholders by playing things back, through clarifying questions such as “did you mean…”, “are you saying you would like…”. Such playbacks help to ensure that what we thought we heard was really what the stakeholders wanted.
The clarified and confirmed understanding can then be communicated to all project stakeholders. The application of this approach throughout the project can help avoid most project hiccups. However, hiccups can still occur and our approach is to deal openly and frankly with the hiccup to arrive at a good solution. Moreover, wherever appropriate, learn from the hiccup and adjust our methodology to learn from it.
Managing differing agendas
In multi-stakeholder projects, the stakeholders may have differing or even conflicting agendas. Our approach in these situations is to establish the agendas in the scoping stage and then be aware and extra vigilant in execution. We continuously verify, to the best of our ability that all expectations are understood and addressed throughout the project. Openness and frankness, telling people what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear are the most appropriate behaviors.
Ensuring that all stakeholders interests are identified and explicitly taken into account, and resolving conflicts as noted above may not be as simple as one would like. In many cases, the project team is so involved and focused on their elements of the project that they may not see “the forest for the trees”. Establishing a governance process upfront and, in larger projects, even a steering committee can help ensure the right levels and points of focus are maintained at all times.
Solid project governance is vital to successful project outcomes. We apply our project governance methodology to all projects. Through this model, all parties collaborate under a common methodology, working towards successful project outcomes, making for a happy customer and an even happier partner who is involved all the way through.
Like planning and managing almost anything in life, the key to ensuring everyone involved is more than satisfied and that the outcome takes into account all stakeholders requirements, is communication. Good communications underpin delivering successful project outcomes and meeting or exceeding stakeholder expectations. Having a transparent and honest dialog throughout the engagement is a good recipe for a successful delivery.
We welcome your thoughts on whether you think this approach provides value specifically when multiple stakeholders are involved. How does your business do it? Get in touch with us on the details below.