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Best Practice for Stakeholder Engagement During Program Recovery
By Peter Osborne

If a program of change is put into recovery, stakeholders will inevitably play a critical role in getting it back on track. Their commitment and engagement can make the difference between a project or program’s ultimate success or failure. In order to recover the identity and integrity of a program, project management need to ensure influential stakeholders use their authority and leadership to clear a path back to successful delivery. Peter Osborne of LOC Consulting examines best practices for effective stakeholder re-engagement when the current approach has failed.

Establish terms of reference for stakeholders

Project management must consider stakeholders as operating along two axes of interest and influence. The process of developing a RACI chart will help identify and define the different interests and influences of stakeholders, as well as their level of involvement. Clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are key to delivering a successful program. It is essential that both stakeholders’ expectations and the expectations of the program are communicated, understood and most critically supported.

Engage the business sponsor

It is imperative that all recovery initiatives are owned and driven top-down from senior leadership. By ensuring the correct business sponsor is in place, it is the role of the program manager to ensure that senior leadership clearly understands program objectives in relation to the wider business. The additional perspective can also pre-emptively identify challenges, and their solutions, that are specific to the industry the program targets. This will provide the necessary framework for a smooth program recovery process, and restore confidence in a potentially demoralized team and nervous management through more streamlined goals.

Give stakeholders a reason to be engaged

Once a program has lost direction, management must give stakeholders the business imperative to re-engage by proving both the relevance and the value of what’s being delivered. By actively involving the business sponsor, the program can attract the interest and support of influential business leads. This will bolster the project’s ‘clout’ and underline its relevance which, in turn, supports the value of the project to stakeholders and the organization. In addition, management must demonstrate that stakeholder’s time, expertise, and influence are being used efficiently and effectively for the benefit of the program in order to retain their interest and commitment. Most critically they need to see that their comments and views are included and are influencing the shape and direction of the program.

Communications must be relevant and more effective

Delivering top-down communications through established channels is an excellent opportunity to re-engage wider stakeholders and re-affirm commitment to a program. Other forms of communication are required for ensuring a likely demoralized program team is guided through the recovery process. Creativity will prove far more compelling than the traditional models of business meetings and emails. Moreover this approach will help a demoralized team bond and add value to participants’ experience of the program. Reviewing the Communication plan and agreeing the message and medium will aid in this process.

Program recovery cannot be achieved without a clearly defined stakeholder engagement strategy. Program management must take responsibility for nurturing relationships with all impacted stakeholders. Understanding the ‘who’ as well as the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ is key to successfully completing the program recovery journey.

Peter Osborne, is the managing director at LOC Consulting. LOC Consulting is a specialist management consultancy, which partners with its clients to deliver complex business change and IT projects and programmes. Since 2005, we have worked with a number of global and niche organizations across a wealth of disciplines to achieve sustainable, measurable business benefit. We deploy dynamic and innovative consultants who specialize in programme healthcheck, recovery and delivery, drawing on a wealth of proven experience and leading practice methodologies to enhance clients’ business delivery. Our capabilities span the entire project delivery lifecycle – from the initial shaping of ideas through delivery and implementation. Our founding values are rigidly deployed on every assignment and this focus on quality has resulted in LOC being ranked the 40th fastest growing private company in the UK, by the Sunday Times, and is reflected in our client references.

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