Sunday, 9 February 2014

Identifying and Managing Stakeholders’ Interests

‘Identifying and Managing’ Stakeholders' interests is always an important ingredient of running a business or managing teams. 

So, who are ‘Stakeholders’ and ‘How do you define them’? One misconception is - it is ‘Business Owners’ and another variant is ‘It is Customers and Business Owners’. If the answer is one of them, there is a lot your business needs to revisit.

It is agreed that the ‘Customer-Centricity’ would bring in better perspective in Defining & Driving your business Strategies. But there is a lot more to be added to ‘Stakeholder management’. Stakeholders are the people who are affected in one or the other way by the results of your efforts. The magnitude of the impact may vary for different stakeholders. For example, delivering a project successfully to a customer (on time/best to the requirements) may help him expand his business (maybe through cutting the costs, buying in new customers, boosting his product sales, whatever it maybe) and it may speak million dollars for him. For your company, it may mean a decent profit and locking in the customer for the repeat business (which is a key for business expansion). For the project team, it may mean a bonus, profit share, sense of achievement, a great experience to be claimed. For sales people (and thus for the company), it is a good case study and marketing collateral to boost up Sales by buying in new customers. So, overall a project success is more of a “shared goal”. “What’s in it for me?” is the question that everyone wants to have answered for them. Once they get the answer, it would automatically boost their morale high and help them deliver to the best of their abilities and nothing special needs to be done to motivate them on a day to day basis. But ensure that everyone’s interest is identified and managed properly.

Good leaders tend to identify this proactively and thereby draw desired results from the people involved. Some leaders/managers are more of reactive in nature and identify this when they confront the question like – “Hey, what’s in it for me”. This is okay too. But leaders and managers who wouldn’t pay respect to this aspect would continue to face wide variety of problems – from incurring losses to loosing people who matter for them. Just imagine the situation – “The success or failure isn’t going to make any impact on the key stakeholders of a project or an organization.” This is the ugliest situation an organization should never try to confront and if they were to, they would need to be ready to fire-fight day-in and day-out.

So, keeping the question WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME at the epicenter and answering this on behalf of all the stakeholders involved would bring in more positive results. It’s more of a Cultural aspect than a one-time exercise. It has to happen at micro level (like project management) and also at a macro level (organizational level) and more importantly the culture has to flow top-down, starting with the senior management and down to the leaf nodes. Not just that, it also adds to the Job Satisfaction factor for everyone involved.

‘Managing’ OR ‘Not Managing’ the interest of the internal stakeholders is about the difference between ‘We’ and ‘I’. While businesses know it from the beginning, some businesses learn it on the way.