Infrastructure projects come with many challenges and very often one of those challenges is managing stakeholders.
Knowing how to convert difficult stakeholders from pessimists to partners can mean the difference between a successful project with good PR and one that gets bogged down, running over time and over budget.
Here are five strategies to transform difficult stakeholders into project partners:
1. Identify your stakeholders properly
Identifying your stakeholders at an early stage helps keep your project on track. One of the most common reasons a project goes off course and stakeholder communication breaks down is a stakeholder was not identified and comes in mid-project with extra requirements and requests that haven’t been addressed. Use a stakeholder communication plan or matrix to identify key stakeholders and their impact on project success right from the start
2. Establish trust
Information = trust. Understanding what is important to your stakeholders helps to craft communications that will build long-term trust. So collect as much information as possible about your stakeholders. Use a variety of data collection approaches including personal meetings, ‘town halls’, interviews, surveys etc. to gather a range of relevant information. Your purpose is to determine your stakeholder’s goals, their preferred communication and how often, and identify their concerns. Just the act of meeting and listening to your stakeholders, without trying to convince them, will start the trust-building process.
3. Keep stakeholders informed
Keeping stakeholders appropriately informed is key to getting and keeping them on board. However, not everyone needs to hear everything. Document how your stakeholders want to be kept informed, the frequency of communication, project interest levels and their expectations from the project.
Then moderate their requests with their importance to the success of the project. With this information, you can plan your communications and address your individual stakeholder needs and their impact on success.
4. Address difficult stakeholders directly
Most projects have difficult stakeholders, but it’s how you address them that’s important. While some challenge is positive, as it brings about new ideas and thinking, some stakeholders can simply be negative and derail the project. Before acting, validate their potential impact on project success as your response must be proportional to that impact.
For high impact stakeholders, deal with them directly. Identify the root cause of the problem, and discuss and get feedback directly so you can achieve a resolution and move on with your project. In this case, direct communication, without other project stakeholders, will often resolve problems quickly.
5. Work through solutions with stakeholders
Once the general stakeholder issues are identified, work with them to find a solution. Often the stakeholder has already identified a solution to their problem. If the solution fits with the overall project, go with it. That will help reduce friction and regain their support for the project. If the stakeholder doesn’t already have a solution, then, where possible, work through it with them to identify a compromise that works for both parties. Ensure the impact of the solution can be measured.
Swift Digital works with public and private sector companies – including Government organisations and the Utility and Infrastructure sector, to help improve their communications and stakeholder management. Improve your stakeholder communications with Swift Digital’s stakeholder strategy plan. Get yours at www.swiftdigital.com.au/infrastructure or scan the code.
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