1.1 Stakeholder mapping is an important process and a crucial step to understanding who the key stakeholders are for a business, where they come from and what exactly they are looking for in relation to the business. It is a collaborative process of research, debate and discussion which draws from several different perspectives to agree upon a key list of stakeholders.
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One of the techniques a business can use is the Power Versus Interest Grid, which helps to determine and demonstrate the stakeholders to prioritise based on their level of interest and level of power. This allows a business to focus their time and energy wisely and where it is needed to ensure the project is a success. They can then be broken down into the following four categories depending on where they are positioned on the scale: Monitor, Keep Informed, Keep Satisfied, and Manage Closely. When identifying the interests of stakeholders, it can help to think about what they expect from the project and what benefits they would actually receive. The mapping technique also needs to consider any conflicting interests the stakeholder may have when getting involved in the project, and how committed they are in carrying out the work, including potentially offering tangible resources if required.
Those who fall in the ‘monitor’ category have low power and low interest, and it is therefore important to attempt to engage them generically with less detail and frequency, which requires less effort on the part of the business. Stakeholders who are under the ‘keep informed’ category have low power but high interest. This means that it is worth keeping them informed about progress and significant changes, as they can be a good support network on a project and help to prevent issues if they occur. Those who fall under the ‘keep satisfied’ section have high power but low interest, therefore these stakeholders should be made to feel content with the business, but do not need to know the small details on a daily basis. The ‘manage closely’ category contains stakeholders who have both high power and high interest, so it is most important to collaborate effectively with these. Working closely with them will ensure they are engaged completely and are consulted for ideas along the way.
Another common technique is the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Contributing and Informed) Matrix, which is a chart used to assign roles and responsibilities for each significant task or decision on a project. By ensuring each role is clearly identified in terms of project involvement, it eliminates confusion over who will be working on which task. Tasks and job roles are noted on the grid and then staff are coded based on their involvement; responsible, accountable, contributing and informed. Responsible staff carry out the work to ensure the task is completed, and each task requires at least one responsible person. The accountable staff oversee the work carried out by the responsible staff, and are tasked with reviewing it to ensure that the project is completed to a high enough standard. Only one accountable person needs to be assigned to each task or category. They might also have an element of supervision in their role and delegate work to the responsible staff. Consulted parties are those who provide input based on their level of expertise within the particular work area, and will help to review the progress of the project to support completion of a task. Those who are informed simply need to be kept up to date with significant changes and project progress as a whole, rather than knowing small levels of details of the day to day tasks.
The idea of this matrix is that all staff members involved are clear on exactly how they fit into the project and the responsibilities that they have been assigned, encouraging them to feel in charge of their own work. This is particularly useful in ensuring work is not duplicated and helps to distribute the correct amount of staff to work on a task. Any project could benefit from using a RACI matrix, but it can be particularly useful when tasks require multiple resources for completion, run concurrently or depend on other tasks.
1.2 Within a business setting, having influence is about making sure that colleagues are completely on board with the best direction to take a decision in. The factors which contribute to this are excellent communication, persuasion and negotiation to help sell your ideas and come to an agreed conclusion that the team is happy with. For an influencer to be effective they must be emotionally intelligent enough to understand how colleagues might react to suggestions, and therefore be able to adjust their communication methods as required. It is essential for someone to show they are actively listening, thus respecting the ideas of their colleagues, to then be able to compromise and take on other opinions to achieve the best outcome. An effective influencer will also be able to motivate and inspire their colleagues to build strong working relationships, which will lead to work being carried out more effectively and good decisions being made.
Within my team, our stakeholders are top level management who are in place to make overall decisions, set the targets which we will work towards and allocate budget. With this particular group of people, it is most important to negotiate to ensure that they do not have unrealistic expectations. They need to hear what it’s actually like for staff who are delivering on the outcomes which will help to agree on the best way forward for the team. We also have other internal stakeholders who are teams within the same organisation, such as the Design and Communication team or IT team. For these, we can have a project in mind based on our targets and are then able to work together to achieve them. This will inevitably involve compromising and taking on board their suggestions to make the project a success, but we ultimately need to make sure we are still meeting our aims. External stakeholders are the community we serve, as well as other organisations locally who we can work together with. We currently work closely with an external organisation to deliver a shared target and recently had to implement a new process for them to follow. I was able to gather data to show them that the old process wasn’t working well and used this to persuade them to support our new ideas.
1.3 The expectations of stakeholders should actively be managed for the duration of a project to increase the likelihood that it will be a success. It is important for the project manager to be regularly negotiating and influencing the input of the stakeholders as early as possible, so that the goals are achieved to a level of which everyone involved is happy with. Being honest and realistic is also vital to build trust with stakeholders and strengthen the overall relationship. Good stakeholder management will progress the project quicker with minimal or no obstructions, thus improving the quality of results which are delivered. It is not only about focussing on the happiness of stakeholders, but also being able to use their time, expertise, resources and influence effectively to reach the goals of the organisation.
Recently within my team, we were asked by our service director to focus on a particular area of work to improve the health and wellbeing of workplaces and schools in the area. We were given a start date for when this work would actually be live and useable, and at the time thought that this would be achievable. Part of the project involved us working with a Design team within the organisation, as well as the Web Team. Despite my team working together to gather the information that was needed for our resources, the timescales for the project were then taken out of our hands because of the demands on the other departments. We had no control over this, and were told they currently had to prioritise other areas of work and would not be able to meet our suggested deadline. This was explained by us to our service director, who understood the situation but still emphasised it was important to complete this as soon as possible. We were able to negotiate and agree to complete as many of the other tasks we had been given within the original timeframe, and we confirmed a new deadline with the Design Team and Web Team. We then updated the service director regularly on task outcomes and the significant developments of the work. Part of the problem with this project is we all underestimated how long it would actually take, and there wasn’t enough planning initially to allow for the workload of the other departments.
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1.4 Stakeholder consultation is the long term development of constructive, productive relationships, which results in a mutually beneficial relationship. Stakeholders can voice their concerns and provide feedback which will be used to shape the direction of the project and its outcomes. Consultation also enables the opportunity to identify external risks and minimise them based on the stakeholders an organisation is working with. Consultation usually takes on two forms:
- consultation on specific developments, projects or ventures
- ongoing consultation to track and monitor stakeholder perceptions within the broader operating environment
Our team has been involved with setting up and leading a focus group to contribute to a new proposal, targeting the older people who live in the local area. We were able to select and consult with a diverse range of stakeholders who were representative of the professionals who will most likely be coming into contact with our target group. Some of these included the police, fire service, hairdressers, and the library service. We each attended several meetings where the discussions could take place, led by a facilitator, which meant we captured a lot of useful and in depth qualitative data. However, this took longer to analyse and format into order. These sessions also gave a good opportunity to think about potential problems and allow us to come up with solutions as a group. The face to face element of this way of working meant that stronger relationships were formed, and there seemed to be a greater understanding of what we were actually all working towards. One difficulty with our focus group was that it was quite costly in terms of venue hire, and ultimately, not everybody could attend each session. The inconsistent attendance meant that decisions had to be made without those present, therefore some stakeholders weren’t always happy with the outcomes. Another issue is that our group was made up of 30 internal and external colleagues, but this size may not be representative of the majority opinion which could put the whole success of the project at risk. The amount of knowledge the group had between them was invaluable, and it would have been impossible to complete the project without their input. Unfortunately because everyone was so passionate about the work and wanted it to be a success, there were a lot of strong opinions and it was difficult at times to compromise.
Another way we gather input is by sending out surveys and follow up questionnaires to our previous and current clients, receiving the data anonymously. This has been carried out by post in the past, or more commonly by text message or email now. The questions asked are standardised, and typically quantitative in the form of rating scales, which makes the evaluation process much more effective. This is a very low cost method of reaching a huge number of clients, and the texts and emails in particular means results can be gained very quickly. If questionnaires are sent out to individuals to complete in their own time, it means that their responses will actually be their own opinion, rather than being at risk of being influenced if they were in a group situation. The results will likely be more honest as well because it’s anonymous so we will get a better idea of how things are working or not working within the service. Unfortunately the response rate is often not very high, so although we’re reaching a lot of people, we aren’t actually gaining enough of an insight that is truly representative. Closed questions are used mostly which could have an impact on results as it doesn’t allow a client to express their reasons for that particular response. The anonymous nature of data collection also means we cannot ask for clarification in a situation where the reasons behind a response might not be clear.
1.5 If stakeholders feel they are not being consulted with adequately, it could lead to a lack of support in the future and they will probably lose interest in the project. Eventually, an organisation could fail to achieve its goals because of this. The reputation of an organisation can be largely impacted upon the way that customers and stakeholders are consulted, and they might not like the direction the project is heading in. If they don’t feel like they have been communicated with appropriately, it could lead to them talking negatively about the organisation in public and also withdraw the support they initially provided. Once there is a negative perception of a business, it can be very difficult to actually repair the damage caused. The lack of trust which would develop could also cause a lack of enthusiasm for the project, and poor collaboration could result in delays to tasks being completed. A lack of consultation could also result in conflicting views not being managed appropriately, therefore stakeholders will not be aware of why decisions have been made without their input. Ultimately, this would lead to conflict and difficult working relationships which are not conducive to an effect project team.
My team created an award scheme for local businesses in the area to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff. If an adequate consultation had not taken place, the result would be a very unsuccessful scheme. Consultation was essential to ensure we gathered enough of an insight into what businesses actually want to gain from completing the award scheme, and to make sure they were getting enough for their money in terms of what we offered as support and resources. Without this knowledge, we could have produced something which was not at all helpful to the businesses, and something they wouldn’t have been prepared to pay for and take part in. We would have wasted our budget on creating a meaningless project and our aim to improve the health and wellbeing of staff would have failed. The local businesses would have also felt like we weren’t capable of actually supporting them, therefore might refuse to work with us in the future and our reputation would have become more and more negative.
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