Effective stakeholder engagement is essential to ensure a project is fully successful. For your stakeholder engagement plan to have value and be impactful, it has to be meaningful.
But why shift toward meaningful engagement? The goal is to emphasize:
- corporate social responsibility,
- more transparency,
- better reporting,
- and improved project outcomes.
You’re doing much more than reaching out to the people impacted by your project and giving them a voice. Optimal engagement has been shown to have a direct connection to the success of a project.
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Originally, stakeholder engagement was seen primarily as a way of mitigating risk. Keep your stakeholders happy, make sure to talk to them in the planning stage, and there was a smaller chance something would go awry. But now, that engagement is essential to the whole lifespan of a project – ensuring stakeholders are part of the process, and documenting those interactions over time.
To do that, we have to always be returning to how we approach a plan and re-editing, reevaluating. That continuous cycle looks like this:
- Planning: Create your initial plan after some preliminary talks with stakeholders. Figure out their original needs and incorporate that into your overall plan. Identify your stakeholders, create a map, and do research to understand them.
- Engaging: As you proceed with your plan, continue to engage with those stakeholders. Ask them about their needs as you proceed with the project. Have conversations or focus groups, do surveys, and hold one-on-one meetings to connect.
- Measuring: Measure the impact of the plan and project progress so far on your stakeholders. Gauge the success and their needs again. Let that impact your work.
And then, the cycle repeats. You’ll adjust your plan based on those measurements, you’ll engage with those stakeholders, and measure the success of that engagement. Then change that stakeholder engagement plan again. It might feel exhausting to return to the same planning document, like you’re a hamster on a wheel. But the point is to watch how your project influences your stakeholders over time, so you’re better prepared the entire way through your process.
In essence, that all really means you’re never done with stakeholder engagement. You’re always refining and honing what your plan looks like in relation to those stakeholders. Broken down further, you should always be committing to a cycle that looks like this:
- Identifying stakeholders
- Defining objectives
- Communicating objectives
- Creating strategy
- Assigning responsibility
- Measuring outcomes
- Assessing risks & objectives, and then beginning again at the top.
But these processes are never going to be so smooth in reality and you need to balance out your objectives with their needs. You’ll likely encounter roadblocks that will change your course. But that’s the point of more meaningful engagement: providing you with a strong, flexible stakeholder engagement plan that’s ready for change.
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