To ensure the success of a major change and transformation, there is a lot you can do to power your change.
When projects begin, I believe that teams and leaders intuitively know the importance of involving others in the process. However, it can feel daunting to understand how to foster involvement and know when to bring everyone in at the appropriate times. For those exact reasons, stakeholder engagement can really help enable decision making and effective project planning. Here are some tips to get your stakeholder engagement plan together.
1) Work with your project team and highly connected individuals in the organization to map out groups, leaders, teams, supporters and potential detractors who might be impacted as a result of the change(s) from your project. Here are some questions I like to ask clients when they are trying to brainstorm who should be their stakeholders:
a. Who (individual, team or department) will be directly impacted by the changes from this project
b. Is anyone impacted by the changes that might be "surprised" at launch that you should engage?
c. Would anyone in the organization benefit from understanding the changes earlier than the general population?
d. Who can appropriately champion the project's efforts or provide valuable feedback on the launch strategy?
e. Is there anyone that could benefit (from an ROI standpoint from the changes that you should partner with directly?
2) Once you have identified your stakeholders (likely there will be a lot), it is important to determine their level of importance to the success of the project. I like to keep it simple and label each stakeholder group as “nice to know, need to know, critical”. That way I can identify when (and if) I need to tackle their concerns. While it’s nice to plan for every stakeholder, sometimes you simply do not have enough time or resources to accomplish that goal. Then this planning can really help in your decision making; what stakeholders should be involved and why, what support do they need and how will you get it to them, and last, but not least, when will you bring stakeholders into the project.
3) From there, I would suggest brainstorming strategies on how to address each of the stakeholder’s needs. Those strategies can include: communications, training, recognition, systems updates, process reengineering, updated jobs, team alignment, etc. Pick the strategy to execute that will be most effective in your organization to ensure success. Leverage your project team, champions, and even stakeholders to help execute.
4) Last, but not least, work with your highly connected individuals and champions to foster social influence. Allow these folks to be involved early. Determine their specific goals for involvement and then share information, provide tools and enable ideas to enter the discussion in regards to implementation. These teams will be your greatest asset, and I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to identify this team early.
There is a lot involved with stakeholder engagement, but if you take a stab at executing some of the steps above you will be able to effectively involve teams, avoid any organizational surprises and influence change faster. In fact, if you take the “keep it simple” approach, and even just work with a handful of your “critical” stakeholders you will at least be making some progress. Involve with intention, early and often. Happy stakeholders make for a happy launch.