Program Stakeholder Engagement Tutorial

Program Stakeholder Engagement

Welcome to the sixth chapter of the PMI-PgMP tutorial (part of the PMI-PgMP® Certification Training.)

In this lesson, we will understand program stakeholder engagement. It is the third of the five performance domains that we need to cover as part of this PgMP certification course.

Let us begin with the objectives of this lesson in the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial.

Objectives

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Understand stakeholder engagement

  • Explain the three stages involved in stakeholder engagement

  • Learn how to identify stakeholders in a program

  • Understand how to plan engagement of the stakeholders

  • Acquire the skills to engage stakeholders throughout the program actively

Let us get introduced to stakeholder engagement in the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial.

Introduction to Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder

A stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization that may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, process, or outcome of a program.

In other words, stakeholders either influence the program or get impacted by it. In both cases, the effect can be positive or negative. This is a fairly broad definition and therefore encompasses a wide spectrum of people, groups, and organizations.

Let us look at some of the common stakeholders in a program.

Program Sponsor

The program sponsor is an important stakeholder who provides the resources for and champions a program. The members of the program’s governance board who steer the program will also be stakeholders.

Program Manager

The program manager himself (or herself) is a stakeholder. The project managers working on the components of a program, their teams, and the overall program team are also stakeholders.

Funding Organization

The organization, which is providing the funding, as well as the performing organization, which is working on the program, become stakeholders.

Program Management Office

The Program Management Office (PMO), which supports the program, is a stakeholder, too.

Who are the Stakeholders?

Suppliers who provide specific goods or services to the program are also stakeholders. Government agencies which oversee the program are stakeholders.

Similarly, competitors may become stakeholders if they are also involved in the program in some way or shape the program’s outcomes. People who get affected by a program (e.g., people living in the vicinity of a construction program) are also stakeholders.

In the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial, we will understand the difference between engagement and management.

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Engagement vs. Management

From the name of this performance domain, you realize that in the context of stakeholders, we do not “manage,” but “engage” them. This choice of words is significant.

Stakeholders are people or groups of people. Regardless of whether they are positively or negatively inclined toward the program, the program still needs to “engage” and establish a rapport with them.

The question is how is stakeholder engagement at the program level different from project level stakeholder engagement is?

Let us try to analyze the differences.

Stakeholder engagement is challenging in a program as compared to a project. Below are some of the reasons to learn why Stakeholder engagement is challenging in a program as compared to a project.

Reason 1

The scale of stakeholder management and the duration over which it takes place is larger in a program. The reason is that a program typically runs for a longer duration and has a deeper impact on the stakeholders.

Therefore, longer and more meaningful connects with stakeholders are critical to a program’s success.  

Reason 2

Programs often bring about a larger scale change than a point project. Change is always difficult, and therefore the stakeholders of a program will also find it difficult to handle it. The program has to make sure it helps the stakeholders through the inevitable pain involved with change.  

Reason 3

Program managers become escalation points for issues that project level stakeholders might have. So programs do get involved in some project level engagements as well.

Reason 4

A very interesting point of view is that program managers, for the most part, deal with stakeholders on whom they have little or no authority.

For example, customers, investors, suppliers, program board members, and so on, do not report to the program manager. The program manager spends most of his/her time dealing with them.

Hence, the ability to influence without authority is a critical skill that a program manager must develop.

Reason 5

Stakeholder engagement is both an art and science, and it is up to the program manager to utilize leadership skills. This is to align (as much as possible) the program with the expectations of the stakeholders and the outcomes of the program.

In the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial, we will discuss program stakeholder identification.

Program Stakeholder Identification

The following are the steps involved in program stakeholder identification:

Step 1

The first step in stakeholder engagement is to identify the stakeholders in a program. This will require discussions and consultations between the program manager, program team, program sponsor, customer organization, and presumably many others.

Step 2

Once all the stakeholders have been systematically identified, they need to be documented in the stakeholder register.

Step 3

Their level of influence, interests, needs, expectations, the degree to which they are getting affected by the program, and so on also needs to be understood and documented.

Step 4

After this, the program will categorize the stakeholders using tools such as power/interest, or influence/impact grids, etc.

We shall look at an example of this in subsequent sections.

Step 5

This categorization is very helpful because it provides pointers to the prioritization of stakeholder engagements.

The stakeholder identification stage is a very important starting point for stakeholder engagement, and it requires very strong analytical and interpersonal skills.

We will look into the classification models for stakeholder analysis in the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial.

Classification Models for Stakeholder Analysis

All stakeholders do not have the same amount of influence or interest in the program, nor do they have the same amount of power.

Therefore, the way to manage each stakeholder needs to be calibrated, based on the proper classification of the stakeholders. This is the role of the classification model. This can be represented by mapping stakeholders to power (or) interest grid.

In the diagram given above, the X-axis represents interest level, and Y the axis represents the power level.

Based on the various combinations of power levels and interest levels, the grid can be divided into four quadrants.

The stakeholders on the top, right quadrant (i.e., with high power, and high interest), need to be managed closely, i.e., we need to monitor their involvement and engagement very closely.

The stakeholders on the bottom, right quadrant (i.e., with high interest, but low power), need to be kept in the loop, i.e., we need to share information and keep them regularly informed.

The stakeholders on the top left quadrant (i.e., with high power, but low interest), can be managed by keeping them happy (for example, by making sure that their interests and opinions are taken into consideration).

The stakeholders on the left, bottom quadrant (i.e., with low power, and low interest) may be managed less actively, by simply monitoring how things are proceeding with them.

Similarly, you can come up with a grid that maps the power of the stakeholder, the interest they have, the influence they may have, or the impact that they can have on the program, through the Power/Interest, Power/Influence, or Influence/Impact grids.

The Salience model is a way of describing classes of stakeholders based on their power (ability to impose their will), urgency (need for immediate attention), and legitimacy (appropriateness of their involvement level). All these frameworks are used to guide the stakeholder management strategy on a project.

In the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial, let us look at stakeholder engagement planning.

Stakeholder Engagement Planning

After identifying and categorizing stakeholders, the next step would be to start planning how to engage them.

The output of this step would be the engagement plans specific to stakeholders. The stakeholder register needs to be analyzed to come up with stakeholder engagement plans.

At the basic level, the plans would depend on the following:

Culture

The culture of the organization and the level of acceptance for the change that the program is trying to bring about have to be taken into account.

Attitude

The attitudes, as well as the overall positioning of the stakeholders, with regard to the program and its sponsors, need to be considered. This refers to the organizational politics behind the program.

Amount of Benefit

Stakeholders’ expectation of the amount of benefit that can be realized through the program needs to be addressed.

The degree of Support or Opposition

The degree of support or opposition to the program has to be taken into consideration.

The Outcome of the Program

The ability of the stakeholders to be able to influence the outcomes of the program has to be considered.

Broadly, the stakeholder engagement plan should:

  • Define expected outcomes from specific stakeholder engagements;

  • Define means to be adopted to reduce resistance and maximize support; and

  • Track the engagement through indicators like participation in meetings, and communication channels and other means.

Let us understand the stakeholder engagement assessment matrix in the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial.

Stakeholder Engagement Assessment Matrix

The stakeholder engagement assessment matrix allows us to visualize the current and desired states of a stakeholder’s involvement in a program.

The five levels of involvement (represented as columns in the table) are as follows:

Unaware: Where the stakeholder is not aware of the project or its impacts.

Resistant: Where the stakeholder is aware of the impacts and is resistant to change.

Neutral: Where the stakeholder is aware of the program and is neither supportive nor in opposition to the program.

Supportive: Where the stakeholder is aware of the program and impacts and is supportive of the change.

Leading: Where the stakeholder is aware of the program and impacts and is actively engaged to ensure that the program is successful.

The table has one row per stakeholder identified. You put a C in the column which best indicates the current level of engagement for that stakeholder. Then you put a D in the column which best indicates the desired level of engagement.

After filling the table, it can be a quick visualization tool that helps to understand where there is work to be done in the stakeholder engagement activities.

Moving on, let us understand stakeholder engagement.

Stakeholder Engagement

After identifying and categorizing the stakeholders and planning for engaging with them, the next step is to engage with them according to the plan.

Here are some important considerations in stakeholder engagement.

The first is that stakeholder engagement is not a one-time activity; it has to be done continuously throughout the life cycle of the program.

The program manager is responsible for making sure that all the stakeholders are engaged adequately, and in a manner that is deemed appropriate as per the stakeholder engagement plan.

The program manager needs to make sure that steady rhythm of communication is maintained with the stakeholders, and this communication is tracked to ensure that it is meeting the intent and purpose of the engagement.

The program managers should review stakeholder metrics, to identify risk due to lack of participation. They should track the results and metrics from stakeholder engagements, and if there are risks arising from lack of or inappropriate engagement or a particular engagement not yielding expected results, then such risks must be logged and tracked.

The program manager should have a means to log all the issues that are raised by the stakeholders during the engagement from time to time.

The issue log must be used to guide appropriate action and timely closure of the issues to ensure that the engagement is positive and is moving forward. It is a cliché, but it is true that stakeholder’s issues or lack of engagement of the stakeholders are one of the biggest risks that a program can face.

Therefore, it is critical that the program manager devotes a large amount of his/her time to ensuring the active and constructive engagement of the stakeholders. This is a time-consuming task and requires soft skills on the part of the program manager.

In the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial, we will look into the overall tasks involved in the program stakeholder engagement.

Program Stakeholder Engagement Tasks

We will now take a quick look at the various tasks involved in program stakeholder engagement.

Task 1 – Identify stakeholders and create the stakeholder matrix

Task 2 – Perform stakeholder analysis through historical analysis, personal experience, interviews and so on to create stakeholder management plan

Task 3 – Set clear expectations and acceptance measures for the program benefits to achieve and maintain their alignment with the program objectives

Task 4 – Generate and maintain prominence for the program and confirm stakeholder support to achieve program strategic objectives

Task 5 – Define and maintain communications to ensure stakeholder sustenance for the program

Task 6 – Evaluate risks identified by stakeholders and integrate them into the program risk management plan

Task 7 – Develop and maintain relationships with stakeholders to improve communication and develop sustenance for the program

Next, we will take a look at the domain-specific knowledge and skills that we acquired in this lesson.

Program Stakeholder Engagement - knowledge And Skills

The knowledge and skills necessary to ensure program stakeholder engagement are as follows:

Customer Relationship Management: To ensure a positive relationship with stakeholders.

Customer Satisfaction Measurement: To set up a system to standardize and take action on customer satisfaction.

Expectation Management: To set the correct expectations and acceptance criteria about the program performance with the stakeholders.

Public Relations: To create high visibility as the representative of the program; and

Training Methodologies: To train and develop activities across the program.

Let us now check your understanding of the topics covered in the next section of the program stakeholder management tutorial.

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Summary

Let us quickly summarize what we learned in this lesson.

  • A stakeholder is an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, process, or outcome of a program.

  • The three primary steps involved in stakeholder engagement are stakeholder identification, stakeholder engagement planning, and stakeholder engagement.

  • Stakeholders need to be actively engaged and not managed.

  • A program manager uses the ability to influence without authority to reduce stakeholder’s resistance and increase their support for the program.

Conclusion

We have now come to the end of this lesson. In the next lesson, we will look into program governance.

  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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