Stakeholders – Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

Published: 1st July 2014 Category: Shared Vision Download Article as PDF

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An important, first step in the design stage of a project is to review your stakeholders in the new service to be delivered. Stakeholder identification and management are two areas that, given due time and consideration, can significantly benefit any piece of collaborative project work. However, they are key to embarking on the design phase as they must be involved in the design of the new service in order to gain their buy-in during the process. 

The OGC’s report on public sector shared services recommends that you should ‘Ensure stakeholder buy-in is obtained from the outset and sustained throughout the development and implementation of the Shared Services solution.’. 

Defining who your stakeholders are…

 In the rush to ‘get on’ with the tasks at hand, though, they can easily be neglected – or ignored completely.  

Typically, you should consider the needs of any group that touches or is touched by the service under review.  

Consider the customers of the service (internal to your organisation as well as external customers), for example: 

●              the staff who work within the service

●              the managers of either of these sets of stakeholders

●              any elected members, board members

●              central government bodies

●              trade unions and

●              associated third sector and community sector partners.   

Don’t forget that stakeholders come in all shapes and sizes and that they all need to be ‘named’, to make sure you are not missing out on a vital group.  

3 Steps to Identifying and Managing Your Key Stakeholder Groups

1.                    Creating a Stakeholder Identification Grid (Fig. 1) [please download the PDF of this article to see the diagrams] Identify your stakeholders and assess where they sit on a grid of support for the shared services work you’re about to embark on, compared to their influence on this work.  This is normally an interactive, flipchart-style exercise, which a project team will undertake in collaboration with representatives from the subject area under review.  The initial purpose is to ascertain where, in the grid, each group sits.Determine the relative positivity or negativity of each of your stakeholder groups as this will determine how you will need to communicate and work with them.  I usually find simply denoting a “+” or a “–“ in red next to each name sufficient

Completing this grid as a project team should ensure that everyone who has either an interest in, or influence over, the piece of work is identified.   

2.             Creating The Stakeholder Management Matrix (on the next page) [please download the PDF of this article to see the diagrams]  

The project team can then agree: 

●              the current and desired levels of support for the work

●              what the best approach might be for each of the stakeholder groups and

●              who might be best placed to manage relationships with each stakeholder group for the duration of the project.   

The rationale behind this approach to stakeholder management is to ensure that ‘current levels of support’ matches ‘desired level of support.   

Not all stakeholder groups can or will be advocates for the changes that are going to take place, but the project team needs to understand where its stakeholders are on this continuum and whether and when support levels change over time. 

Academics David Archer and Alex Cameron, who specialise in collaborative leadership, emphasise the importance of, ‘…a management style and skill set that engages all participants by designing constructive processes for working together, convenes appropriate stakeholders and facilitates and sustains their interaction’.

3.             Identifying and Managing The Stakeholder Levels Of Support (Fig. 3) [please download the PDF of this article to see the diagrams]  

The Stakeholder Management Matrix (Fig. 2) assigns all stakeholders (individuals or groups)  a ‘current’ and ‘desired’ level of support for the duration of the project.  

However, as the programme evolves over time, this status will change. Your stakeholder management communications should support the migration of all stakeholders to their desired level of support, and then keep them there.   

Stakeholder management is not a one-off exercise but is reviewed periodically (monthly) to determine where levels of support may have changed and whether the project needs to put additional actions in place to address these changes.

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