Written by: Donna Kirk – The Pro Forum Community of Practice
Stakeholder Engagement: Touted as a fundamental skill of any project, procurement, and contract manager – the ability to truly communicate and incorporate a wide variety of interests into achieving the required outcomes is 90% of the activity.
If it is in fact a fundament skill – how are the skills obtained?
Is it left to chance that someone is a good communicator, listener, can get everyone on board and supporting the result?
Are they specifically trained to use the necessary skills to influence blockers through to advocating for the outcome, users, and owners?
Or is there a reliance on individuals to use their individual communication styles and adapt to the various situations or variations along the way?
Having run multi-million-dollar commercial programs, as well as procurement projects with no financial transactions but significant community outcomes, Phil Sealy CEO of Pro Leaders Academy highlights,
“Stakeholder engagement is a people process – almost an oxymoron! We need to engage with people, and that’s a two-way process. A process of sharing information and receiving feedback. And it’s a process that can go wrong especially when we don’t engage with all the correct stakeholders.”
What can it look like when it goes wrong?
When Supreme Court Judges speak out against a project, you know something in the people process hasn’t worked. This project example highlights what can go wrong.
Let’s assess the stakeholder engagement people process and the potential impact on the entire project
✓ The development included a community consultation process
✓ The process of consultation saw meetings with key stakeholders (the Judges) several times
✓ There was a documented or submission process
X Issues raised during the consultation process addressed so parties are satisfied
X Opportunities to discuss revisions by Key stakeholders
X IMPACT- The project may well be deferred or current proposal rejected with new proposals required costing time and money. Another impact is the increased lack of trust in the department responsible for delivery of the project.
This example demonstrates why focussing only on the process – the consultation, the choice of what feedback to address (and wat not to) and the delivery of information – can lead to serious project and or procurement impacts.
So what is the solution:
- Check you have all the stakeholders and not just the ones that hold a title like executive.
- Don’t just list your stakeholders, profile them to make sure you understand what is going to keep them awake at night and work out how you can help them from the start.
- Use active listening, we generally have 2 ears and one mouth, so when engaging the stakeholders, listen twice as much as you speak.
While we all have communication skills, these should be routinely enhanced and refreshed regardless of our role or position. This isn’t limited to project managers, stakeholders which might include people with more authority or less may also need to hone their communications as well.