In my experience working with major projects, I have learned a lot about communication between several different organizations and levels of government. Sometimes it is very difficult to see progress with projects with so many stakeholders, but here are a few tips for making it work:
SHARE and DISCUSS ideas with all stakeholders before implementation
If you’re working with several stakeholders, make sure that there is constant communication between the groups. As you progress through a project, everyone will need to be kept up-to-date on what the changes are in case there are items that require stakeholder approval. Just going to stakeholders with a final design and plan expecting approval will not always work. Every stakeholder has a specific interest and may see the project differently. Ensure that everyone agrees, or at least finds your assumptions and/ or solution acceptable. It is easier to know where stakeholders have concerns while you’re still in the concept stage rather than going back to square one if a base assumption you used did not align with a stakeholder’s mentality or requirements.
Be prepared to COMPROMISE
People always say it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but that is not true. Of course everyone has their own interests in mind, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some wiggle room. When preparing a project with several stakeholders, you need to think of a variety of approaches and ideas that can satisfy everyone. As stated above, you’ll need to include each stakeholder in discussion. In the process, you may find that on certain items stakeholders may be willing to accept something other than their original position. With so many different interests, you need to have an open mind and the ability to compromise. If you cannot compromise, your project will never take off.
Try to understand all stakeholders’ PERSPECTIVES and CONSTRAINTS
While I do say above that compromise is key, you have to remember that different stakeholders have different requirements and constraints. You need to understand these before starting your work. Try to discover these constraints and perspectives at the beginning of your project during the proposal or concept stage. As I said previously, it easier to restart a project while you’re still in the beginning stages than it is to scrap a nearly final or final draft because you did not realize a key constraint of an important stakeholder.
DO NOT BE OFFENDED if someone does not agree with your work
Let’s face it; with so many different people involved in a project, and so many different ways that the same outcome can be achieved, not everyone is going to agree. If someone takes the conceptual red pen to your work and marks it up entirely, it’s not you or your ideas that they’re trying to offend, they just have a different perspective or idea of how the project should progress. All comments and criticisms should be taken as ways to improve your project rather than as a harsh criticism and judgmental opinion of your work personally. Most projects don’t evolve perfectly and usually take several iterations before they are implemented. It takes a lot of input and reworking, especially when there are several stakeholders on a project. Take everything into consideration and don’t discount a suggestion because you feel that it is a criticism on yourself. Every stakeholder has an interest in the project and wants it to come to fruition.
Be PROACTIVE not REACTIVE
It is difficult to see every outcome before they occur, but if you have a framework set out to capture the unforeseen, then you’re heads above everyone else. Try to create a plan to address issues that are likely to arise, and prepare responses for the items that you feel will become issues before they do. Don’t wait for minor fires to blaze into forest fires before you stomp them out.
If you keep these five items in mind when you start your project, chances are your project will progress much more smoothly than if you only discover them mid-project. If you only remember one of these tips, then remember the first tip – share and discuss ideas with all stakeholders before implementation– the others all stem from these foundational discussions.
Lauren Wingham-Smith is a Municipal Peer Review Team Project Assistant with Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited, acting on behalf of the Municipality of Port Hope. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering, specializing in Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in Economics. This multidisciplinary background allows Lauren to view both the environmental and human effects of engineering projects. She is also passionate about green innovation and design.