Written by Paul Eder and Roberto Calderon

Imagine this situation. You and your team spent time to design and develop a solution for a major business need. You researched best practices, validated your methodology against industry standards, and even got statistically significant findings. However, you encounter the following impediments when implementing your project: your target population is skeptical about the impact of your project and leadership of other departments are hesitant to provide support. 

How do you solve this problem?

The answer is stakeholder engagement. Gaining stakeholders’ trust and having them on your side can not only promote success but also mitigate resistance to progress on your projects. Often, teams intend to get their stakeholders involved, but fail to implement specific strategies to ensure it happens. 

Here are five ways to ensure your project team effectively engages stakeholders.

1.  Conduct a stakeholder analysis

At minimum, a proper stakeholder analysis should investigate:

  • Whether stakeholders are internal or external 
  • Their degree of power in the organization 
  • Their degree of interest in the project 
  • The anticipated level of impact on each stakeholder group 
  • Any other project-specific stakeholder characteristic

Select a format to document this information in a way that allows for a proper analysis. For example, categorizing stakeholder’s data on a grind chart allows crafting strategies around such analysis.  

2. Ensure engagement from leaders

Identify stakeholders with leadership positions and influence within their work groups and present the business caseFocus on showing positive outcomes of the project to build interest. If these stakeholders are interested in the project but are unable to be personally engage due to external circumstances, ask for increased access to other members of their work group. Authority and influence from these leaders will increase the visibility of your project and increase your access to stakeholder groups 

3. Present benefits for each stakeholder group

Make sure there is an alignment between the project outcomes and the potential benefits stakeholders gain from these outcomes. The amount and detail of information given should vary depending on the target stakeholder group. A good method to assist with this alignment is the Power/Interest Grid , a tool to prioritize stakeholders and determine the right information to include in communications. 

4. Address concerns of areas of high impact

Outcomes of a project may impact some stakeholder groups more than others. Moreover, some stakeholders may hold decision making power that could pose an impediment to success.  Learning about concerns will clarify predictions made in the stakeholder analysis and will provide the team with the necessary insights to mitigate areas of resistance and minimize negative impact.

5. Follow up and keep ongoing communication

While participation in the project may vary among stakeholder groups, it is important to keep the communication open and follow up when necessary. Include each stakeholder when reporting outcomes, re-state the benefits per stakeholder groups, and always thank them for their time and commitment. Furthermore, be open to answer any questions or address further concerns they may have during the implementation of the project. 

By gaining stakeholder buy-in early in the process, organizations gain powerful internal and external allies that will facilitate the success of initiatives. Establishing and maintaining key partnerships promotes engagement, ensures transparency, and builds trust in the project’s outcomes.