Communications, Strategy

Managing stakeholders

Aah, the good old times, when the boss simply decided the new product’s branding on his own, and all the employees in the office and out in the field would simply follow like happy sheep. These times are over, and if you’re honest with yourself, these times weren’t good at all. Because in reality, not everyone followed, maybe not even the majority, and the rest would mock about the boss’s incompetence to harness the great experience of the staff to find a better solution.

After the rise of stakeholder management in IT, this discipline was discovered to work perfectly any other important strategic decision – especially when marketing and sales are involved.

How does stakeholder management work? You hire a guy like me, hand me key information about the issue and a list of colleagues, and I would interview every single one of them, one on one. With every interview, more puzzle pieces are added, people would share their ideas, their concerns, and maybe give some hints who else has to be interviewed.

This approach is imho much more effective than a workshop. In a workshop, the extroverted colleagues always (yes, always) lead the word, and the more silent, but often savvier colleagues step back. A workshop sometimes leads to unproductive alpha male battles, and, speaking of unproductive, it’s a horribly big investment in the company’s expensive work time. Yes, sorry, it is unproductive, as only one of the five or fifty participants can talk, and the others have to listen. And we’re not even talking of the difficulty of find a suitable time for everyone, and finally the most valued contributors would cancel, or they would just walk out to pick that call at the most important moment of the workshop.

Stakeholder interviews can be conducted via conference call, and it’s not only a gold mine for good ideas. The best side effect is that by contributing, the participants automatically turn into supporters of the solution that is presented to them at the end of the process. And don’t be scared that listening to your employees would only create a crazy chaotic cacophonia – you will be surprised that all the puzzle pieces can be put together perfectly. Why is that? Because your employers are a target group as well – and maybe your most important. Your employers not only mirror your market in a way, they also are your most effective multipliers. So get this right, and let them talk!