Understanding the Needs of Stakeholders

How do you turn the needs of stakeholders into project success?

Well important to the needs of stakeholders are a short list of soft issues that do not cost a bundle, but make a significant difference when implementing projects. I consider these points to be a vital link in achieving successful organizational change. They really do make a difference.

I have listed these points from my experiences working as a change management consultant aiming to improve my client's business operational performance. Various types of stakeholders over time have expressed these points as important to me, and others I have learnt along the way.

You can depend on these points when dealing with the needs of stakeholders to provide you peace of mind.

In Summary the Key Needs of Stakeholders Are

  • Review with the various types of stakeholders their working requirements, needs and wants.

  • Participation in the formation and implementation planning of the project.

  • Providing them knowledge of project evaluation criteria and risk.

  • Regular communication and feedback throughout the project.

  • A steering committee they feel considers and respects their views.

  • Project completion evaluation and reporting back to them.

  • Below I have explained each of these points in more detail.

    Review with the Various Types of Stakeholders their Needs and Wants

    Attempts to change or improve any aspects of the business may threaten some people and result in resistance to change.

    Therefore key stakeholders among workers and management staff need to be identified. The change agent or Business Improvement Manager responsible can then turn to influencing these key stakeholders and building support for the project. By taking this approach the change agent or BI manager can also assess how much support he or she can expect and the most effective manner in which his or her influence might be used.

    Participation in the Formation and Implementation Planning of Projects

    Build allies in the field by ensuring project stakeholders feel they have been considered in the process.

    All stakeholders have a need to know they are important to the business when making new plans etc. Provide stakeholders an understanding of both theirs and the projects impact on the business by involving them in the forming of the project and when planning implementation. This enhances their feelings about the likely hood of being successful and their willingness to perform their work effectively.

    Benefits to the business are even greater because early involvement of the various types of stakeholders allows the project to reflect and balance their different needs and points of view. It help's to minimize the possibility of disagreements and conflict during the implementation about final decisions that have been made. And it further helps the company because it demonstrates that the needs of stakeholders are seen to be treated equitably.

    Formation and implementation areas for early involvement of stakeholders include:

  • The proposed strategy - why and how this project is being undertaken.

  • The proposed staffing - their relevance to the project and how they may be affected.

  • The program schedules and the key milestones.

  • The project performance indicators - how will the project be monitored and how success is measured

  • Project Evaluation Criteria and Risk

    I have identified one of the needs of stakeholders is the communication of the 'go ahead'. This is a type of official notification to stakeholders that provides reassurances. It highlights the key project phases that are planned for, the project milestones that are in place, and that the company is capable of achieving them. This could be delivered as part of standard company communication methods, or as some type of special get together or 'state of the nation'.

    Some stakeholders might require a project guide or change management guide to help them feel comfortable with the events going on around them and for information on how to monitor the important aspects such as the milestones. If so, the guide should include the key involvement components of the stakeholder groups.

    In some projects that have a broad scope, possibly that can affect the community, some stakeholders request a contingency strategy be in place in that event the original plan is not successful. In the most broad and significant projects, highlighting the risks or limitations will be particularly important to the needs of stakeholders. These include financial or operational risks that can affect their well being.

    Regular Communication, Feedback and Reassurance

  • Issue articles in regular company publications.

  • Publish project management metrics and key performance Indicators.

  • Use project management dashboards for updates.

  • Distribute company news letters and flyers.

  • Send company wide emails from management

  • Communication through celebrating events with a BBQ or a game of basketball or cricket, etc.

  • A Steering Committee They Feel Considers and Respects Their Views.

    Needs of stakeholders include having a steering committee responsible for the development of implementation activities and to maintain any aspects that can affect the stakeholders well being.

    Needs from the Steering Committee Include:
  • Bringing together the necessary people and resources and managing those people and resources.

  • Ensuring sufficient resources are available so that stakeholders are not left with unfair disadvantage.

  • To recognize required changes is resource requirements and acquire or dispose of them as necessary, this might also include hiring outside consultants to assist with the change, such as specialist change agents.

  • Assisting in any transition plans, and providing relevant training etc, if employees are affected.

  • Maintaining regular communications to external and internal stakeholders.

  • Being readily available as a point of contact to serve stakeholders enquiries.

  • Evaluating and negotiating new proposals and changes that arise during the project.

  • Handling the financial aspects of the project and highlighting the bottom line benefits to them.

  • Managing and complying with, legal, health and industrial requirements for the projects.

  • The leadership group should try to ensure its members are outside of the scope of the project and that they have the appropriate level of seniority to be able to make decisions and move the changes forward.

    Project Completion Evaluation and Reporting

    So often projects start and staff will say they never heard anything about the project ever again. Or it went no where.

    Assessment of the projects current status against the original project objectives is one of the fundamental needs of stakeholders. This includes reassurances for the future, the 'where to from here' to address future relevance concerns.

    When possible tie this reporting and evaluation feedback in with ongoing future plans that are to be communicated.

    Stakeholder satisfaction surveys may be undertaken at the end of the project to be included in feedback to all stakeholders. The overall level of satisfaction from all types of stakeholders and how well they believe the objectives have been achieved is collated. Sharing the combined results further addresses the information and reporting needs of stakeholders and improves the likelihood of achieving sustainable and successful organizational change.

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