Stakeholder Integration – A Key Competitive Advantage
By Linda Ford, PhD
Complexity. Change. Uncertainty. These are the “givens” in your world.
Yet, one simple “rule of business” remains constant. Your organization’s ability to execute is the ultimate determinant of your success. And, when it comes to effective execution you just can’t do it in a vacuum. You must create stakeholder-based innovations, strategies, systems and processes, and metrics if you want to really execute. You need to become an outerprise.
What is an outerprise?
Simply stated… your enterprise alone is no longer enough. Superior execution demands a new way of thinking – one that takes an “outside in” approach. We call this the outerprise. You need to invite your customers, suppliers and other key stakeholders into your organization, integrating them into your team, and enabling them to have a real impact on your business. Tap into this critical resource to achieve new levels of performance and competitive advantage.
Who are the critical stakeholders?
Any individual or group with a “stake” in your organization ~ such as customers, suppliers, partners, end users, employees, investors and shareholders, the community, even competitors. Their stake could be economic, such as investors, or more personal, such as employees. The stake is greater for some than for others. Some stakes are easy to understand; others are more challenging.
Why should you involve your stakeholders?
Because your stakeholders are your life blood. Think of it as an ecosystem. Remove the plants and animals from the human ecosystem, and we humans die. Without your stakeholders, the fate of your business is much the same. But, you’re aiming for much more than survival. In the best case, each party’s presence and involvement benefits the other in some meaningful way. That’s what you want for your organization – and its stakeholders. Understanding which stakeholders can make a difference in your organization’s performance is critical.
How does this stakeholder thing work?
Engaging your stakeholders, and integrating them into your business, can be perceived as a complex, even “messy”, undertaking. It doesn’t have to be. Stakeholder engagement is simply about creating conversation – in a way that leads to true collaboration. This can be done in a managed and structured manner, which removes the messiness and produces dramatic results for your business.
Let’s look at an example where stakeholder involvement can have a huge impact. The typical approach to understanding customers is for the sales force (or customer support, in some cases) to gather feedback regarding what customers want, need, like and don’t like. Some companies host annual meetings to help them understand customers and receive input. These events are usually designed to provide information to the customer and to make them “feel good”. This is all well and good, but it stops dramatically short of tapping into the real strategic value that customers can provide.
What if your customers got together with your executive team to explore possible directions for a new product? Obviously, this type of an exchange must be well planned and executed – but consider the possible outcomes. Creating a genuine, open dialogue with your customers can provide valuable new insights for developing new strategies and innovations.
What does that buy you?
There are two major benefits to doing this. First, you get lots of collective brain power working on your success. Second, your customers feel included and excited about what you are doing. The outcome is a win-win for your business, your customers, and as a result, all of your critical stakeholders. That’s the outerprise at its best!
Dr. Linda Ford is an expert on corporate culture – that 800 Pound Gorilla that does whatever it wants to in your organization. She is a consultant, speaker, and author helping organizations tame their Gorilla. For free resources to help you tame your Gorilla, visit http://TameTheGorilla.com
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