Recent work by the Association for Project Management (APM) has caused me to think more about stakeholder engagement. For many years ‘Stakeholder Management’ was one of the topics that I referred to, but deliberately didn’t ‘teach’, allowing (or forcing) my third-year undergraduate students to research it by themselves.
I frequently got the usual Power/Interest matrices (see below), but then the “Management of the Stakeholders” always seem to fall short.
However, let’s start with the basics and look at why stakeholder engagement is important.
What is a Stakeholder?
The APM definition of a stakeholder is:
The organisations or people who have an interest or role in the project, programme, or portfolio, or are impacted by it.
I often have trouble with non-English speaking students mistaking ‘Shareholder’ with ‘Stakeholder’. Identifying stakeholders is vital, and I believe that a key failure of the whole stakeholder management process stems from not identifying a full suite of people and organisations that are affected by, or interested in the project.
What is Stakeholder Management?
Having identified the stakeholders, what next?
The APM definition of stakeholder management is:
The systematic identification, analysis, planning and implementation of actions designed to engage with stakeholders.
So therefore, following identification, we need to analyse, plan, and implement actions to keep these stakeholders engaged.
Stakeholder Management Process
The following steps are a suggestion as an approach to Stakeholder Management. Taken together they form a list of tools or a strategy to implement stakeholder management:
- Identification of Stakeholders
- Create a Stakeholder list and information about who they are and how they are contacted.
- Analysis of Stakeholders
- Create a tabular list identifying the stakeholder, their level of interest and power in the project, and why they may be for or against the project.
- Mapping of Stakeholders
- Create a map to categorise the Stakeholders.
- This mapping is useful in understanding how stakeholders should be dealt with, and also indicates a priority
- The categorisation of stakeholders can also be done in several other ways:
- Internal / External
- Powerful / Not Powerful
- For the project / Against the Project
- Interested / Disinterested
- Important / Not Important
- Influential / Not Influential
- Stakeholder Planning
- Using the results of the analysis to work out how to communicate with the stakeholder, and at what frequency.
- Implementation of Plans
- Ensuring that the findings of the stakeholder analysis are implemented
- Reporting/Review of progress
- Regular reviews of stakeholder information at project team progress meetings. The identification and analysis of new stakeholders, and re-checking that the existing information and analysis is still correct.
Stakeholder management is therefore more than just the identification and mapping of stakeholders.
Why Stakeholder Engagement?
So, what is the difference between Stakeholder Management and Stakeholder Engagement? Is it just semantics?
Firstly, it is perhaps arrogant to suggest that you can manage stakeholders:
- Some stakeholders are very senior
- Some stakeholders will be against the project
- Some stakeholders may be resistant to any involvement
Here is the APM definition for Stakeholder Engagement:
Stakeholder Engagement is the practice of influencing a variety of outcomes through consultation, communication, negotiation, compromise, and relationship building.
It can be easily seen that this is a completely different approach to dealing with stakeholders.
Relationships Over Process
Stakeholder Management is about following a process, and Stakeholder Engagement is about building relationships with people.
Perhaps the easiest way of looking at why stakeholder engagement is the correct term, and that stakeholder management is not all encompassing is to review the two definitions side by side:
Stakeholder Management: The systematic identification, analysis, planning and implementation of actions designed to engage with stakeholders.
Stakeholder Engagement: The practice of influencing a variety of outcomes through consultation, communication, negotiation, compromise, and relationship building.