Similarly to managing employees through a change initiative, the influence you have as an organizational leader should never be overlooked or undervalued when it comes to stakeholders.
Stakeholder groups can vary widely in their needs, but there are basic principles, that when observed, can ease the transition and move things forward toward a successful outcome.
Don’t jump to conclusions
Move away from looking at unexpected issues as “this is wrong,” and toward “why is this so?” It might take a while to learn, but the difference in response can lead you to a lot of solutions that would otherwise have been overlooked.
- Unexpected issues are an opportunity to gain insight and solutions to problems that otherwise would have occurred again in the future.
- Every issue handled correctly is a way to build trust with stakeholders.
Not rushing to judgement presents a unique way to engage with stakeholders, strengthen relationships, and move the initiative forward.
Feedback is critical
Communication is key no matter whom you’re dealing with. Engage more closely with stakeholders presenting objections, it’s an opportunity for understanding what’s driving their resistance — and what might be the right approach to overcome or lessen it.
- Don’t go in blindly when communication can provide you with the information needed to create an effective approach.
- Use feedback to refine situational management, it strengthens relationships and resolves issues more efficiently.
It’s a velvet-on-steel approach, where the hope is that the appropriate resolution can be obtained pleasantly, but with an awareness that sometimes sterner measures are called for.
Build a solid foundation
Establish relationships with key stakeholders early on in the game, and continually work to support and strengthen those relationships. Starting off communications only when an issue arises is an invitation for disaster.
- The more open and honest the communication, the more likely a solution can be found that is acceptable to all if an issue does come up.
- More established relationships often need less facilitation to resolve conflict, which means less time and cost involved with the initiative.
If need be, this also puts you in a position to know when and how to escalate items that need a decision made and supported, in order to remedy a political situation.
Making difficult decisions
Due to the diversity of stakeholder needs, despite preparation, issues will come up. A thorough Change Integration plan will account for these, and aid in transitioning through them.
Making the difficult decisions associated with these issues should be looked at using a rational process, and fact-finding are essential. Consider:
- The logical pros and cons of the decision
- The effects the decision will have in the short, medium and long terms.
- What makes good logistical and team management sense.
That’s not to ignore the reality that for most people emotional factors come into play.
- Engage trusted individuals as sounding boards, and to generate alternative perspectives to help come to a more rounded decision.
- If time allows, give your subconscious a day or two to work things out.
Remember that sometimes you have to “plan all that you can, and then adjust what you must.” Sometimes a 60% solution based on knowledge at hand, is more useful at stopping an issue in its tracks than a 100% solution in two weeks.
A change initiative has a higher chance of creating conflict the more diverse the stakeholder groups involved are, but that doesn’t make a successful outcome impossible.
Using these change management best practices, along with a solid Change Integration plan, turn what seems like a daunting transition into an opportunity for organizational growth and a successful change initiative outcome.
To learn more about effective communication throughout an organization read part 1: Getting your employees through a change initiative – part 1.