Sunday, 15 July 2018




In this blog I outline the fairly straightforward thinking about [1] Who to Engage [2] How to Engage and [3] When To Engage before I go on to the more challenging question of the pros and cons of who and when.

The problem is sometimes if you make a decision and seek feedback you are un-democratic other times you seek opinion before making your choice and you are seen as indecisive. Talking to people before you are clear on your aims or outcomes may invite as much criticism as making a firm decision and then being told you have failed to fully consult the necessary people or consider the implications.

It’s a pretty tricky situation only compounded if your project or change management has many more stakeholders than you can reasonably sit in a room with, or has many irreconcilable interests.


Anyone who has done any form of project and change management will know and appreciate how important it is to Communicate and Engage with key people.

This will include the customers, suppliers, the team(s) delivering the change and the users / recipients of the change as well as the “stakeholders” which can be as wide ranging as casual spectators to passionate agents for or against what is proposed.

The Communication and Engagement may consider “stakeholders” in RACI groups [link 1]

1. Responsible - Those responsible for the performance of the task. There should be exactly one person with this assignment for each task.
2. Accountable - The one ultimately answerable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable or task, and the one who delegates the work to those responsible.
3. Consulted- Those whose opinions are sought; and with whom there is two-way communication.
4. Informed - Those who are kept up-to-date on progress; and with whom there is one-way communication

Or you might consider power/interest matrix [link 2]

1. high power/ high interest – MANAGE CLOSELY
2. high power/ low interest – KEEP STAISFIED
3. low power/ high interest - KEEP INFOMRED
4. low power/ low interest - MONITOR

This has Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages: Helps discovering where the real power over a project is located and therefore making better project decisions. Helps finding the right communication means with stakeholders

Disadvantages: Can be subjective. To benefit must be performed on regular basis. Plotting a stakeholder on this matrix does not show his attitude towards our initiative. We do not know whether a stakeholder is for or against it. Sometimes symbols like (+, -, or 0) are used to indicate that a stakeholder shows positive, negative or neutral attitude.


You might additionally plot communication preferences for each group to note those that prefer face-to-face, lots of data, presentation etc. Certain styles suit people or circumstances (The list below is a very small sample and may be different for each project and change management depending on culture and circumstance).

1. To help Understanding - Workshop; Presentations; Feedback & Support; Video
2. To help Acceptance – Face-to-face; Group Meetings; Briefings
3. To help Caring– Face-to-face; Individual Meetings; Briefings
4. To help Planning – Email; Brochures; Newsletters
5. To help Implementation –Guides; Check-Lists

You might even use different approaches to suit individual learning, communication or behavioral styles [Link 3]


There may also be project and change management phases/stages

1. Pre-Project – outlining the intended project or change
2. The beginning – explaining who, how, what, when, where, and why of intended project or change
3. The middle – offering updates and opportunities for comment and feedback
4. The end – to review the outcome and successes of the project or change


This is the tricky bit: Most of the above is quite straightforward and well documented. The challenges exist when your project or change management has many more stakeholders than you can reasonably sit in a room with, or has many irreconcilable interests.

A key matter is to understand the difference between consultation (you want their opinion) and communication (you are informing them of your opinion or choice). If you want their opinion the inference is that you are prepared to consider their suggestions to process or outcome. If you have made your choice the implication is that you are pressing ahead and the aim is to inform rather than invite comment.

It is useful to be clear on this to avoid a frustrating waste of time.

Of course you may have a two-step project or change..
Step1 – Discuss and what must happen (consultation)
Step2 – Progress the implementation (communication)

Then the challenge becomes who to invite to invite to each. It may seem obvious to invite the people who will design and shape the change to the former, and those that will deliver and accept the change to the latter but there is a degree more politics in this. Some would prefer not to make decisions or be accountable and others will be affronted if a decision is made without their contribution.

This is also difficult where you might have over 100 stakeholders and you need to think about the best one or two people for each group interest eg a staff representative, union representative, customer representative, supplier representative etc.

The challenge of representatives is that they are often dispatched by their peers with the clear instruction “don’t agree to anything” and then no matter how sensible the discussion the inevitable outcome is that their allegiance and approach aims to satisfy their peers than the over-arching project or change.

In these circumstances it may be important to do some team building so that the understanding and loyalty is to the aims and purpose of the project or change more than the parochial or silo interests of one group. The implication is that this style of engagement will take much longer and is dependent upon personality more than information communication.

You may find that you need to select representatives from each group interest rather as you would guests at a dinner party- where you are hoping they will all get along!

There is much that has been written about team building and creating a collegiate sense of belonging to the programme and ownership of the project or change. This is beyond the scope of this article, except to note that good followership depends upon good leadership.


Communication and Engagement can be obvious (none of the approaches above are clever) but it can also be very complex (employing all the approaches above can be difficult) . In the end success depends on relationship and leadership.


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