Since Edward Freeman’s (1984) publication of Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, there has been a sharp increase in attention given to ‘the stakeholder’. For
those of you who are not familiar with the term, a stakeholder is a person or group of people who can affect, or be affected by a given project, program or policy. Stakeholders can be an internal part of a project’s organization, such as company employees, managers or shareholders, or external to the company, such as community groups, government
agencies and the general public.
Freeman was the first to introduce ‘stakeholder theory’, which is chiefly about organizational management and business ethics, in particular the morals and values in organizational management. Since the concept of stakeholder theory was introduced, there have been hundreds of articles published on the topic. While stakeholder theory originated in (corporate) strategic management, it has been applied to various other areas,
such as environmental management, public policy, corporate social responsibility, and more recently, construction project management.
Countless surveys and data samples support the fact that stakeholder management is vital to successful program delivery, and in particular for the delivery of larger, more complex projects such as roadway and water and wastewater infrastructure construction. These
larger, linear endeavours are unique when compared to non-linear construction ventures such as condominiums because the former has the tendency to have further reaching impacts on various land uses (e.g. residential, industrial, commercial, recreational etc.) Therefore, linear infrastructure projects typically influence, and are influenced by many stakeholders. Thus, it is crucial that Project Managers carefully engage the right stakeholders, at the right time, in the right way. If this interaction isn’t conducted attentively, it is more likely that your project will be adversely affected.
To help get your project approved on time and on budget, follow this four step process:
1. Identify all possible stakeholders (public, agencies, community groups etc.)
Prepare a stakeholder register (names, contact information, titles, organization, and any other pertinent information).
2. Identify stakeholder interests, urgency, resources and power. This includes evaluating the likely impact the stakeholder may have on your project.
Categorize the identified stakeholders using the Stakeholder Interest and Power Matrix:
3. Identify ways of managing stakeholder expectations and carryout the strategy
Based on the results of the analysis undertaken in Step 2, develop a strategy to manage stakeholders. Determine what communication and engagement mediums should be used as well as the frequency of the interactions. If a stakeholder is opposed to a project maybe it is because they seek more involvement or awareness – involve this stakeholder to win their favour and support.
4. Monitor and adapt stakeholder management strategy
During the life of the project, monitor the efficacy of your strategy and adjust accordingly. Perhaps you need to hold a workshop with a particularly influential community group or adapt the language in your newsletters to meaningfully inform a certain demographic.
While technical (e.g., engineering, construction) competence is indeed a prerequisite for project completion, engineers, builders and other project proponents such as municipalities, are not always fully maximizing the value of their work by failing to realize that deploying appropriate communication and stakeholder management strategies is often the difference between a satisfactory project and an excellent one.
Andrzej Schreyer , R.P.P. is a senior land use and environmental planner with Hardy Stevenson and Associates and a member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute and the Canadian Institute of Planners. His experience includes developing and implementing public participation and communications plans, managing social impact assessments and land use studies in support of infrastructure projects and preparing community-based strategic plans.