Bridge Briefings: Panel discussion on ‘Criticality of Stakeholder Management’
11th December’ 2015 at BRIDGE School of Management, Gurgaon
- Moderator: Soumen Chatterjee – Global Lead, Strategic People Initiatives, HCL
- Anil Gupta – President & Head Cornerstone, (Former Country Head, Honeywell, Reliance ADAG)
- KR Sekhar – National Education Sector Leader, Deloitte
- Vijay KR – Director Infrastructure &Real Estate, PWC
- Mahesh Krishna – Former VP Walmart, Entrepreneur
- Ajay Ranjan Mishra – Director Technology & IR, Ericsson
- Keynote address by Dr. Jai Menon, Director-Technology, HT Media
Stakeholder management is a critical factor for project success across all sectors, especially in today’s challenging business environments. To evangelize and create a sustained conversation around the need for project management skills, Bridge School partners with PMI North India for a symposium on Stakeholder Management.
Following key topics were touched upon during engaging panel discussion:
The changing scenario of project management
In today’s world, teams are becoming virtual. Everyone has an opinion and in this complex scenario where we have 5 generations working together almost at every other workplace, project managers have to work carefully by convincing and not through prescription. There has been a change in the work scenario. Now, more work is needed from remote teams and there has been a huge increase in the number of stakeholders involved. The world is interconnected. Also, people are now forced to work in a collaborative manner. The impact of individual performance has been diminishing and the impact of network performance is gaining importance. Therefore, the skill of project management has to be carefully analysed and implemented.
Who really is a stakeholder?
Anyone who impacts cost, time, resource, quality is a stakeholder. Also the organisational structure comes into play in stakeholder management. Previously, it was the culture of ‘yes men’. Now it is changing. Now, everyone wants to state their opinions. The internal cultures of various teams impact stakeholder management. Stakeholders begin from your own internal teams.
How critical is it to identify the stakeholders?
Understanding the internal stakeholders is very critical. They are the primary stakeholders. Then come the secondary stakeholders. For example, the customer may not have an immediate say, but from there come important pieces of information. The secondary stakeholders may be within your organisation, outside and for that matter the society as well.
Science behind identifying the right stakeholders
There are two big buckets. One is the stakeholders we control and the other is the stakeholders we don’t control. Both must be mapped and different strategies must be devised for each. What’s important is to see the influence of a particular stakeholder on an engagement and impact of the engagement on a stakeholder. The stakeholders that lay in high-high on both axes are absolutely critical. Also, it is important to identify each person, especially the key person that one needs to address. Do not stop at only identifying a team as a stakeholder.
Also, it is important to understand a stakeholder who will make you stay in the company, i.e., a stakeholder who is happy about the project. Another is the stakeholder who you will need for the successful completion of the project. There is a lot of talk about scientific project management, but it is important to identify that one person who is best in that job. So, apart from the primary and secondary stakeholders, there is also another stakeholder – one who controls us. Identify and map out how to manage this particular stakeholder.
Identifying invisible stakeholders
The most number of challenges come from the invisible stakeholders. Here’s an example from the Bandra-Worli sea link project. At one point of time, the project was stalled because there was a small fishing hamlet and they protested that the trolleys could not go past. The project management team hadn’t envisaged them to be a challenge. The issue spiralled into big problems and so the design had to be changed and the timelines got stretched. So, it is also important to see what roles can societies and communities play. They can be the invisible stakeholders. It is important to build a community connect when running a project or identifying stakeholders.
Tackling difficult stakeholders
The government can be difficult stakeholders. They somehow see more of quantum than the output. Press can also be difficult stakeholders. They actively try to lookout for your mistakes. Ego management is very important when dealing with difficult stakeholders. Also, whenever inputs are provided by them, listen to them. Don’t push. Take it into consideration first and then try and discuss the feasibility of it. Sometimes, there are people who jump in the middle of a project and give advice. Anyone who interacts with you in a project, anyone who gives an advice becomes a stakeholder. Someone who does not have any interest in the project will not give inputs. So, it is important to not ignore the advice given. In fact, it should be encouraged. But also, it is not important to consider every advice. Listen and then choose which to follow. Sometimes, the 10th or 15th advice by such people may turn out to be of high importance, so much so that it may even save your project from falling flat. So, in a project, don’t ignore anyone’s advice. They can turn out to be important stakeholders.
When dealing with difficult stakeholders, do not hesitate to build a team to address the issues of such people. Tackling such people with a team becomes easier as there are no individual egos involved and it is many against one. The idea is to engage and communicate.
Is stakeholder management the most critical factor for success?
It is one of the top critical parameters because in the end, we are dealing with people. Everybody has a different frequency and unless you don’t touch that frequency, you won’t be able to make headway. The biggest example is that of Bhopal tragedy where stakeholders were neglected and it led to a huge calamity. There are three important aspects of project management – people, processes and product.
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