Turning Stakeholders into Advocates

More so now than ever – we are surrounded by change. Changing weather, lockdown changes, the environment, the economic climate and changes to personal circumstances.  Some we can control and others we need to mitigate their impact.

What we do know, as wisely said by Benjamin Franklin, is that: “Change is the only constant in life. One’s ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life”.

What happens when it is our responsibility to lead a change initiative? How can we make sure we have the right supporters, advocates and sponsors on board to make that happen?

According to research by Capterra, three-quarters of projects fail because senior management doesn’t get involved. We also know that senior management are busy, stretched and often with plans to prioritise and deliver their own agenda.

How do you make sure your project is on top of everyone’s list and gets the attention it deserves?

  1. A compelling case for change

You need to be able to clearly articulate the rationale for your project, what it will deliver and what will happen if it is delayed or not delivered. It is also important to link that to the overall business strategy explaining how your project aligns to this. According to PMI just 42% of organisations report having high alignment of projects to organisational strategy. This lack of alignment of projects is a key factor that result in nearly one half of all strategic initiatives are reported as unsuccessful.

  1. Understand people’s motivation

You need to work out for each of your key stakeholders what their motivation is. Ultimately what you are after is a win-win scenario… whereby supporting and championing your project they also achieve their own goals.

Key wins for stakeholders could be one of many things – power, kudos, promotion, more leisure, less stress, flexibility or autonomy… the list goes on. Avoiding trouble can also be seen as a win for stakeholders – loss of credibility, job loss, or friction.

Try to understand people’s motivation and help achieve this through your project.

  1. Leverage advocates to turn around enemies

At Nine Feet Tall we develop a stakeholder matrix for our projects that details the key stakeholders, their level of influence, the level they are impacted by the change and their level of support. There are always a number of blockers that will proactively undermine the success of the project and these people will need to be managed carefully. As a leader there is action you can take to get people on board, but the best way to tackle this is to engage your project advocates to onboard the more resistant people.

  1. Be honest

When communicating about the project tell your stakeholders the truth. There will no doubt be issues and challenges throughout the lifetime of a project and you need your stakeholders to support you through this process. Be open, honest and work together to find solutions. Pretending everything is okay is not the right way forward and will ultimately damage trust and buy-in.

  1. Be consistent

Have a consistent and clear message. People will need to be exposed to the same message multiple times before they hear it. Be clear about the project and their role in making it a success. Don’t change goalposts, roles and responsibilities and ways of working without thinking through how this will affect your stakeholders.

  1. Prepare for challenge 

Not everyone will embrace change and your stakeholders will be challenged by the wider business community. Equip them to deal with this and provide coaching, information packs and Q&A templates so it is easy for them to respond in a coherent and consistent manner.

  1. Share early success stories

Showcase early results and successes as a way of getting further engagement. If a project is seen as making a positive impact, you will be surprised to see how many advocates and supporters you will get. Everyone wants to be part and take credit for success.

At Nine Feet Tall we like to unblock the unblockers to ensure projects get delivered on time and tick all the objectives. If you would like further information on how we can help with your project, contact EstherM@NineFeetTall.com

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