Whenever I work with organisational change management projects, I often find that stakeholder engagement is a term recognised but not completely understood. Organisations, and its people, are complex beings. Managing this complexity effectively relies on reaching out to all, gathering inputs and using these to measure an organisation’s success with regard to its triple bottom line (social, environmental, and financial). These three metrics are sometimes referred to as people, planet, and profits. Only when all three are aligned can an organisation claim to have reached sustainability.
The relevance of stakeholder engagement
Managing and measuring complexity is a need throughout organisational change management. Your people will have their own individual self-interests which predicate their behaviours. There will be potential conflicts of interest, warring agendas between individuals and teams. Strong leadership of change management requires a unified, consistent vision of the future. It is this that will encourage stakeholder engagement with all levels moving forward together.
Stakeholder engagement is a core competency of change management strategy. Change is only truly effective when all stakeholders are engaged in it. In my eBook, The Fundamentals of Change Management, I discuss a number of tools and methods that will ensure ownership of change by all stakeholders.
Here is a four step process to ensuring stakeholder engagement in your change management project.
1 Develop a value statement for change management
Formalise the benefits of change early in the project. However, realise that these benefits are likely to need updating as the project progresses and adjustments are made. All of these updates and adjustments will need to be communicated appropriately to stakeholders.
2 Get key stakeholders and sponsors on board
Your value statement will help you to enrol your key stakeholders. These will include leadership and influencers of change management, and their engagement will be a principal driver of wider stakeholder engagement. Realise also that while the sponsor of change may remain constant, your influencers of change may be a reasonably fluid list as the change works through your organisation. Bringing motivated and influential people in at relevant times and in relevant situations will promote the effectiveness of message. Remember that at all stages of change, leadership and influencers must cascade a consistent message through your organisation.
3 Identify all stakeholders and support required by them
With your key stakeholders on board, take time to identify all stakeholders, and have them represented at appropriate stages of the change project. Encourage feedback through forum meetings, and ensure all the implications of change have been documented: this will help to communicate your message and identify actions that need to be taken to align change with self-interests and employment levels.
4 Communicate effectively
Stakeholder engagement relies on effective communication throughout the organisation and the change program. With the need to cascade a consistent message comes, too, the need to communicate and support stakeholders effectively. A structure which acts as a facilitator to this communication and training will be needed, with feedback from front line stakeholders used to help define communicative functionality. Ensure that communication is proactive and reactive, as well as relevant to audience.
Leadership of stakeholder engagement programs
In order to for leadership of change to be effective, it is necessary to ensure complete stakeholder engagement. This requires management of complexities which exist in all organisations and at all levels.
When working with clients within both targeted and organisation wide change programs, I utilise a number of tools and strategies that coexist to create an environmental and social bottom line that dovetails with revenue and earnings targets. As organisational change theorists now realise, only by aligning people, planet, and profits can change be implemented with sustainability.