How to Improve Stakeholder Engagement Effectiveness

Rob Llewellyn By Rob Llewellyn

How to Improve Stakeholder Engagement Effectiveness

Presenting a weekly report to a group of senior executives is ‘reporting' and it plays a supporting role in the epic task of stakeholder management. Unfortunately however, this weekly report and meeting is often ‘the be all and end all' of stakeholder management in some programmes.
A discussion on identifying, mapping and analysing the supporting, opposing or indifferent programme stakeholders is beyond the scope of this post. What I want to focus on here is the measurement and re-definition of the stakeholder engagement strategy.
While it is expected that any programme manager will do their best to establish the most effective stakeholder engagement approaches from the outset, it is impossible to predict the true reactions to our approaches because our stakeholders are people and all people have emotions tied into their reactions.
For this reason, it is important that our stakeholder engagement strategy includes the two activities shown in red text in the diagram at the top of the page.
Measuring stakeholder engagement effectiveness & re-defining the stakeholder engagement strategy
Often these activities are not even considered and managers forge ahead with their first and only engagement approaches, even if it is quite apparent that the stakeholder engagement is not going quite as they'd like it to. So let's take a closer look at these two sometimes neglected areas of stakeholder relationship management.

Measuring Stakeholder Engagement Effectiveness

Assumptions that stakeholders will find the information they need if they need it should be avoided and it is the responsibility of the programme manager to drive the engagement with stakeholders.
Something else to bear in mind is that “the meaning of communication is the response that you get”. Often people make another dangerous assumption that their communication is being understood (and reacted to) in the manner with which it was intended. Quite often, it's not the case.
But unless we measure the perceptions, reactions and effectiveness of our communications, we will live in a world of assumption, and as the actor Alan Alda once said; “your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.”
So establish a feedback mechanism which will provide the information needed to measure the effectiveness of stakeholder engagement so that any shortcomings can be remedied, sooner rather than later, and periodically.

Re-defining The Stakeholder Engagement Strategy

If shortcomings in the stakeholder engagement approach are identified, steps need to be taken to address them and improve the approach.
While best efforts might have been made in the original definition of the strategy, after measuring results they are found to be not effective enough, the following questions and their answers could be considered:

  • Have the stakeholders been properly identified, categorised and grouped?
  • Are the most effective mechanisms being used for engagement?
  • Are communication efforts clear, concise, consistent and appropriate for each stakeholder?
  • How can messages better neutralise any opposers and gain more support?

There are many factors to consider to ensure an engagement strategy which is effective across the full range of stakeholders. It is certainly not a case of “one approach fits all”.
Benefits and dis-benefits for each stakeholder, inter-cultural understanding, clear communication, the business environment and other factors need to be considered,  if the stakeholder engagement strategy is not sufficiently effective.

In Summary

Stakeholder engagement is a method of achieving influence and positive outcomes via the intelligent management of relationships. Internal politics, personal agendas, emotions, perceptions and other factors all need to be considered for each and every stakeholder that matters.
A stakeholder engagement strategy needs to be seen as a cycle of recurring steps, as opposed to a straight line of one-time activities. That way it can mature in effectiveness as more is learned about the stakeholders and as the environment evolves over time.
 

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With over 20 years helping managers and leaders generate commercial value from technology, Rob Llewellyn is dedicated to helping the new breed of digital economy professionals write the next digital economy success stories.

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