Mega projects call for intensive internal and external engagement with executive management, governments, organised labour, contractors, media, communities and other interested and affected parties which all see themselves as having a stake of some sort in the project. Ultimately it is about managing the expectations of the project stakeholders in order to ensure project success. But before one can get to expectation management, the right stakeholders should be identified, their needs and intentions should be understood, and they should be mapped using a power-interest grid which also indicate their attitudes toward the project. This will put you in a position to effectively plan and execute stakeholder management strategies.
Stakeholder engagement is an important discipline that is used to win support from others. It helps the sponsor and project manager ensure that their project succeeds where others fail. Stakeholder identification and expectation management are continuous processes throughout the project life cycle.
Stakeholder management entails the identification of project stakeholders, gaining an understanding of them, their expectations and views, prioritising them using a stakeholder map, developing a stakeholder management plan and finally engaging and communicating with them to ensure that stakeholder expectations are managed throughout the project life cycle.
Historically, many owner organisations have often adopted a passive and somewhat reactive approach to informing stakeholders of developments, relying upon traditional communication methods such as newsletters, press releases and annual meetings. Such organisations frequently relied on a one-way communication and engagement strategy. Increasingly, successful organisations choose to be more pro-active and actively involve stakeholders in the decision-making process particularly in connection with developing new ventures. They aim to encourage and ensure wider and more constructive engagement.
Stakeholders have the power to impede or promote and a project. Stakeholder management is an important activity that is used to gain mutual understanding of the objectives and expectations of all parties. It aids in developing a concept that will gain support from all the interested and affected parties enhancing the likelihood of a successful outcome.
The benefits of pro-active stakeholder engagement include:
- Gaining the opinions of the most influential stakeholders to aid in shaping projects at an early stage. Not only does this make it more likely that they will support the project, their input can also improve the quality of the project;
- Gaining support from stakeholders can help secure the right resources;
- By engaging stakeholders early and often, one can ensure that they fully understand the benefits of the project, and;
- One can anticipate what people’s reaction to your project may be and plan actions that will win support or mitigate resistance.
Project stakeholder management is not an add on! It is a key activity on a project that requires time, money and resources. By identifying and managing stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle, stakeholder related risks can be pro-actively managed. Stakeholder engagement and communication are ultimately about expectation management. Knowing what your stakeholders want from the project, puts one in a position to effectively manage these expectations, and prevent potentially serious issues that could impact project success.
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