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The key issues for successful stakeholder management

Whether you know it or not, we are all in the business of stakeholder management. Ideally it’s a conscious, planned and focused activity associated with clear actions and outcomes but more often than not it is an unconscious and unplanned aspect of managing projects day-to-day. Developing a formalised, documented, repeatable process for mapping stakeholders and embedding a clear methodology for stakeholder management can yield enormous benefit.
What? When? Why? Who? How?
So, what is stakeholder management? Formal stakeholder analysis is used by business leaders and project managers to identify the key influencers associated with a particular project or programme then assess their attitude, level of interest and the importance they attach to it. Such knowledge helps change programmes to interact in the most effective way with stakeholders, particularly in planning optimal pro-active communication.
When is the right time for stakeholder management? It is essential to conduct the initial stakeholder analysis before the change or transformation programme begins so that the business leader or project manager can drive positive outcomes by detecting negativity, resistance or misunderstandings early on and take appropriate action. Stakeholder analysis can also be helpful when a programme changes direction.

Why is it important? Stakeholder management is a key leadership tool. Done consciously and effectively it secures the ownership and accountability necessary for delivering change. It’s a way of aligning multiple teams with a single goal and providing that all-important ‘golden thread’ of relevance to the strategic aims of the organisation.

Who are your stakeholders? You can identify your stakeholders by following the ‘threads’ of the programme i.e. who is paying the bill, who has sign off, who is contributing resources. Distinguish between a sponsor and a stakeholder as their roles are quite different: the sponsor is the single owner of the programme, whereas the stakeholders are all those who stand to gain from it. Note that your sponsor may also have a sponsor’s agent in order to expedite action.

How does it work? The golden rule of stakeholder management is to clearly identify roles and responsibilities up front as well as analysing the stakeholders themselves. Set expectations for your sponsor and stakeholders with regards to performance indicators and measurement and build a tailored communications plan around what you have learned from your analysis.

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