At the heart of effective organisational change management and project delivery lies the often underestimated, yet crucial, element of stakeholder engagement.
Stakeholder engagement encompasses a wide array of activities, from gathering input and feedback to ensuring alignment with organisational goals and managing expectations. Despite its multifaceted nature, it is common for misconceptions to cloud understanding of what stakeholder engagement truly entails.
These misconceptions play out in different ways, from viewing stakeholder engagement as a box ticking exercise to assuming it’s only relevant for certain sizes of projects or change initiatives. Such misinterpretations can lead to poor outcomes, increased resistance to change and, ultimately, missed opportunities for success.
In this article, we’ll dismantle some of the myths surrounding stakeholder engagement. By doing so, we hope to shed light on the critical role it plays in enabling organisations to navigate the complexities of change with greater clarity and effectiveness.
So, let’s begin our exploration by myth-busting stakeholder engagement.
Myth 1: Stakeholder engagement is a one-time activity
Reality: Stakeholder engagement is not a tick-box on an impact assessment or change management plan or a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that evolves throughout the lifecycle of a change initiative. Engaging with stakeholders at the beginning is crucial, but maintaining those relationships, identifying new stakeholders as they appear on the landscape, getting to those difficult to reach stakeholders and adapting to changing needs and circumstances is equally important.
Myth 2: Stakeholder engagement is the responsibility of the change manager/project manager
Reality: Stakeholder engagement should be a shared responsibility across the organisation. While some departments or roles may take the lead, such as change managers, project or programme managers, everyone involved in the initiative should play a role in engaging with stakeholders. Employees, leaders and change teams all have a part to play in identifying and engaging with stakeholders.
Myth 3: Stakeholder engagement is only about managing resistance
Reality: While managing resistance is one aspect of stakeholder engagement, it’s not the sole purpose. Effective stakeholder engagement goes beyond addressing opposition; it’s about fostering collaboration, gathering valuable insights, and leveraging the diverse perspectives of stakeholders to enhance decision-making and ensure successful outcomes for change
Myth 4: Stakeholder engagement is only for external parties
Reality: Stakeholder engagement includes both internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders, such as employees, managers, leaders and sponsors s, are vital contributors to the success of any initiative. Their buy-in, support, and feedback are just as important as those of external stakeholders like customers, suppliers or regulatory bodies.
Myth 5: Stakeholder engagement is time consuming
Reality: Stakeholder engagement, when done effectively, can save time and prevent costly mistakes in the long run. By involving stakeholders early in the process, organisations can identify potential issues, gain insights into what works best for different groups, and make more informed decisions. This upfront investment pays off with potentially less rework and smoother delivery and transition..
Myth 6: Stakeholder engagement is all about communication
Reality: While communication is a crucial aspect of stakeholder engagement, it is just one side of it. . True engagement involves active listening, gathering feedback, incorporating stakeholder input into decision-making and involving them in co-creation when possible. It’s a dynamic, two-way interaction, not a one-way tell and broadcast mechanism.
Myth 7: Stakeholder engagement is only about keeping stakeholders happy
Reality: While keeping stakeholders satisfied is important, it is not the only focus. Effective engagement aims to balance stakeholder interests with the overall goals and needs of the change programme. It involves working with stakeholders to at find mutually beneficial solutions that remain aligned with the organisation’s strategic objectives and priorities.
How can you learn more about effective stakeholder engagement?
Stakeholder engagement is a multifaceted process that plays a vital role in the success of organisational change management, project management and business transformation. To fully harness its potential for driving positive outcomes and ensuring alignment with the diverse needs and expectations of all relevant stakeholders, consider delving deeper into this essential skill set.
For a more comprehensive understanding of effective stakeholder engagement, we recommend exploring our resources on: ‘Unlocking the Potential of Power Skills: How Effective Communication Drives Organizational Change’ . This resource offers valuable insights into the power of communication and stakeholder engagement and its role in driving change within organisations.
To take your stakeholder engagement skills to the next level, consider joining our upcoming webinar, ‘Engaging with Difficult-to-Reach Stakeholders’. Whether you are leading or supporting change, it is critical to gain buy-in from difficult to reach stakeholders and keep them on side through the change journey. Hybrid and remote working, add to the complexities of keeping teams connected and able to collaborate effectively. In this webinar we will walk through the key factors to consider when developing a change communication and stakeholder engagement approach.