6 Roles to Consider as Part of Your Stakeholder Management Strategy

So, you’ve been working on this project for weeks now; from the start you’ve been dogged by sketchy briefs, confused over who needs to be involved, plagued by dodgy power dynamics and hamstrung by inconsistent sponsorship. You’re just about ready to pitch your innovative solution but the whole thing seems to have slipped down the list of corporate priorities and now you can’t get a meeting booked in. Sound familiar? I would bet that most people involved in delivering new products or services, particularly those working as part of an in-house resource, will have experienced a feeling akin to swimming against the tide at some point in their career. Despite all of the textbooks and all of the known knowns, somewhere in the world, there will probably be yet another project that ends this way before you finish reading this post.

I’ve seen many good ideas stall because of any combination of the elements outlined above and a few more besides. Getting buy-in for change can be complicated. Creative teams and enthusiastic intrepreneurs can get an idea so far but unless they can find a way to land it within the business, it’s doomed to be confined to the annals of what might have been. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that it is vitally important to secure buy-in early on and continue to maintain a close relationship with commissioners and sponsors through every stage of the design process. Ultimately, the success of a service design challenge has as much to do with stakeholder management as it does the deployment of each stage of the design process itself.

Stakeholder management is about being able to manage productive relationships between different groups of people, who often share a desire to achieve the same outcome but differ in their opinion of how to get there, by ensuring that any disagreements or power struggles don’t become overwhelming and draw focus away from the work at hand. Of course, when the post-project case study is written up this will all look straight forward and meticulously planned from the outset, but in reality, it is likely to have been a tricky juggling act dynamically played out by the seat of your pants. Being able to recognise and appreciate different perspectives and associated motivations is, therefore, an essential skillset to have for any in-house service design team.

Considering the service design toolkit, it is possible to identify a range of tools and approaches drawn from a variety of disciplines such as industrial design, marketing, and the social sciences. However, there are also some other sources of ops-based inspiration which can be drawn from less likely but more disruptive activity. Whilst borrowing from the revolutionaries toolkit might not necessarily seem like an obvious choice, there are certain aspects of the approach to revolution that can be used to the advantage of any service design challenge. Something that those orchestrating a revolution know well is how to manage stakeholders and whilst the methods employed by revolutionary leaders to wield this knowledge and power can sometimes be questionable, to say the least, central to the success of their endeavour is being able to understand who their stakeholders are, the integral roles they need them to play and how and when to get them working towards a common goal. Therefore, in many ways, getting buy-in for a new idea and scaling a solution is like orchestrating a revolution; bringing in the right types of people at the right time, with the right mix of skills and responsibilities to make the whole thing work.

Think like a revolutionary; 6 Roles you should consider as part of your stakeholder management strategy

Considering these roles when you develop your stakeholder management strategy for any change you are seeking to deliver could mean the difference between a positive impact and an implosion.

Who is making the biggest noise? Who is already calling for this change at every opportunity? Who is constantly trying doors and getting frustrated when they won’t open for them?

Who can make the argument for change? Who has the facts which support this change? Who is respected enough to construct a reasoned argument about why this change must happen? Who can keep the cause on course when the chaotic winds of change start to blow?

Who can communicate the vision? Who can communicate the arguments in ways which grab people’s emotions and compel them to buy-in to the cause?

Who have you got on the inside? Who are the ‘insiders’ who understand the politics and power structures at play? Who can spot the subtle change signals coming from inside the power centre and spot the rare opportunities to make a push forward?

Who are the power players? Who are the decision-makers? Who are the people with power that are sympathetic to the cause and can provide influence or funding? When it boils down to it, who can make any change possible and who can derail it?

Who are your biggest fans? Who are the 15 to 20 per cent of people you need to make this change stick? How can you bring them on board to ensure that when the time is right to deploy a tried, tested and well-designed solution you are able to attain a critical mass?

Working hard to secure a clear brief, clear communication channels and clear project sponsorship upfront is essential, but when it comes to building an effective stakeholder management strategy, looking for those who fit the roles outlined above and finding ways to get them working together by understanding their individual motivations could mean the difference between successful deployment of a novel idea and the fizzling out of the greatest innovation that never was.

Vive la révolution!

Originally published at http://simonpenny.wordpress.com on June 18, 2020.