Breaking Through the Stakeholder Surface
The Stakeholder Blueprint
Stakeholders are an important component of the business ecosystem, and especially important to initiatives, as they include any individual person or group that has any sort of connection to the business need or change at hand. Stakeholders can have a straight-forward connection to the initiative, or be a more complex and challenging piece. Stakeholders are not always the person or group with the easiest road of access, and overcoming challenges and barriers with stakeholders can build trust and facilitate meaningful business relationships and engagement.
Speaking the language of stakeholders is about understanding not only what is obviously promoted and agreed, but also about listening to what is not said. Within stakeholder silence can be hesitation, but it could also be unspoken agreement and support, or even untapped input. Not all stakeholders speak the same language, and it may depend on the initiative and accompanying environment. Understanding environment is important, as well as having self awareness to ensure no assumptions are made on perception of stakeholders.
Everyone knows the phrase, “watch out for those quiet ones”. In the landscape of stakeholders, it is not always a reliable approach to accept the loud voices of support as loyal, and the quiet ones as adversity. Understanding different communication needs can help to elicit not only requirements, but important business information to help with the initiative. This means not only thinking, but also performing and prioritizing outside of the box.
The Unlikely Mentor
Within stakeholder groups, there could be many different types of business relationships. Mentors can come in all shapes and at all career milestones. You may have spent some time focusing on one particular area of your organizational structure to find a mentor, only to happen upon your best ambassador and catalyst of growth from an unexpected network connection.
Mentoring as a professional input has changed over the years, and no longer is represented by the one-dimensional approach of an employee with seasoned expertise providing wisdom to a junior, within a specific organizational facet. Mentoring can be from one or many blended sources, allowing the optimal blend of experience, perspectives and advice to inspire multi-directionally. It is no longer the formal, stuffy documented professional connection and more modernly exists in a fluid, dynamic environment that fits more to the organic professional environment and multiple avenues of existing career paths.
Cohesion and the Business Need
Mapping stakeholder personas is an important Business Analysis technique in identifying specific sources, decisions and choices for involvement to the initiative. Keeping touchpoints open and approaches objective helps to elicit valuable information for projects and maintain a team’s engagement and value.
When leading teams through initiatives and keeping communication central, there may be times when information is not always easy to unpack. Depending on the initiative, challenging group conversations about outcomes may come up time-to-time, such as the sometimes “unpopular” outcomes of:
- Doing Nothing
- Accepting sunk cost
These outcomes can divide stakeholders, make some nervous, and may even inspire a reaction to perceived setbacks, even if they are indeed the best options. With the right communication though, these may actually allow for important reconfigurations for stakeholders to find a new perspective. That environment of honesty and trust can directly impact another future initiative, or even exist in understanding business needs, and how something such as “doing nothing” may prevent loss from continuing to pursue an initiative that delivers low-value.
Keeping stakeholders informed and direction honest can:
- Enhance elicited information
- Build trust
- Create better business relationships
- Solidify cohesion in the delivery of any outcome
When the team has the same view, the road to travel there is easier.