Some Key Principles in Stakeholder Engagement


Whenever there is a project to deliver, it is essential to ensure that the issue relating to the engagement and management of stakeholders is fully covered. The two issues are generally thought to be the most important parts for any successful project. However, all too often they are regarded as an activity that could be provided by someone outside the organisation. Project managers depend on people to cooperate and respond with them and they will only work with you if they are fully engaged.

Stakeholder Management

The phrase “stakeholder management” can give the impression that a project manager has a degree of authority over the stakeholders involved in the delivery of the project. However, the fact is that they have no real power in most instances and therefore have to depend on a different set of leadership and management skills.

Here are some of the methods that the Project Manager must use:-

1) Communication

Before trying to influence and engage any stakeholder, it is necessary to fully understand, at a personal level, who you will be acting with and depending on. Their involvement throughout the lifecycle of the project obviously depends on the manager providing information to the stakeholders, but it is also vitally important to understand how best to furnish them with the data they need.

2) Consult, Consult, Consult

The purpose of the project should be clear before it is started, but is not unusual for the stakeholders to be less than fully aware of the scope, or the means by which the project is going to be implemented. At least that is what happens when insufficient consultations have taken place. Such consultations are a two way street, allowing the project manager to identify issues, and perhaps even changing a part of the delivery process after taking note of any feedback from the stakeholder in question. Early, and continuous consultations are vital to make sure that the delivery method is agreeable to all, or at least the top stakeholders.

3) Remember, you are dealing with human beings

Humans come in all types and some will be easier to deal with than others. They may well not act as you would expect, perhaps acting in an irrational or unreasonable manner at times. This is why it is essential to fully understand the major stakeholders and to tailor your methods of communication and requests to match their particular way of doing things.

4) Plan Your Stakeholder Interactions 

The more you plan your interactions with your stakeholders, the better the level of engagement you will encourage. Putting it simply, skilful preparation before talking to your stakeholders can bring dividends.

5) Building Like and Trust

If you want to be able to fully interact with your stakeholders, you must first get to know them and more importantly get them to trust you (being liked is an optional extra). We all know that when there is a good level of trust, everyone works together more effectively. Thus, investing some time and energy in identifying and creating relationships with your stakeholder is a must, as this should increase confidence in you and make it easier for you to be able to get them to help you cope with any ‘bumps in the road’.

6) Just part of managing risk

Besides being an essential part of the project delivery process, it is also necessary to realise that stakeholders can themselves be a source of risk. It is therefore necessary to keep them onside as much as possible, whilst bearing in mind that they may have their own axe to grind, one that may not be totally aligned with the project’s deliverables or timescales.

7) Sometimes you have to compromise

The scope and deliverables of the project should have all been agreed before commencement, but things can change and in such instances it is necessary to compromise. The trick here is to establish the most acceptable baseline, one that meets the needs of the largest set of stakeholders, and their diverging expectations and priorities. You also have to take into account the relative importance of each stakeholder, as only then can you decide which you have to give more attention to / accede to their wishes.

8) Know your goals

The success of a project can mean different things to different people. Thus you need to find out what the overall stakeholder community would consider success to be.

9) Get everyone to understand what they are responsible for

Remember stakeholder engagement is something that all members of the project team need to help with. Indeed, every stakeholder should also do their best to make the project work. It is therefore essential to get everyone to understand that they are ‘in it together’ and are not on opposing sides. Simply put good project management requires providing clarity to all on their roles and responsibilities and what is expected of them during the life of the project. Implementing all of the above is not always easy. 

Which is why many organisations reach out for help. One company that has a track record in this area is Prendo. Their unique training methods employ simulations that enable leaders to develop and hone their skills. Please see for more information.