Leadership

Developing a Strategy That Addresses Multiple Stakeholders

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How do you create a business strategy that will address multiple stakeholders? Whether it’s the overall stakeholders in your business or key stakeholders on a specific project, you’ll need to develop a targeted approach.

Here are key steps you should consider incorporating into your plan.

6 Tips on Building a Strategy That Addresses Multiple Stakeholders

1. Identify the key stakeholders.

A stakeholder is a person, group, or organization with a significant interest in the business. Stakeholders  can range from investors to employees to government groups.

Once you know which individuals will be affected by changes to your strategy, you need to identify those with the most influence over your operation. If you fail to prioritize the needs of your stakeholders, you run the risk of overextending your resources by trying to appease everyone.

The Harvard Business Review recommends five questions to help executives determine key stakeholders from marginal or non-stakeholders:

  • Do they have a fundamental impact on your organization’s performance?
    • If yes, they’re a key stakeholder.
  • Can you clearly identify what you want from the stakeholder?
    • If yes, they’re a key stakeholder.
  • Do you want the relationship to grow?
    • If yes, they’re a key stakeholder.
  • Can you exist without them or easily replace them?
    • If no, they’re a key stakeholder.
  • Has the stakeholder already been identified through another relationship?
    • If no, they’re a key stakeholder.

If your answers to any of the above questions indicate a stakeholder isn’t key, that individual shouldn’t define your strategy. For the purposes of this exercise, cull them from your list.

2. Understand each stakeholder’s goals.

It’s imperative to understand each stakeholder’s goals so you can meet or exceed those expectations from the outset—and ensure that different stakeholders don’t have competing needs.

What if your investors want you to close underperforming product lines to boost profits, for example, while employees would like to see the product lines maintained because it opens up promotional paths? There isn’t an easy answer to a conflict like that. Your team will have to decide on the most important goal(s), and then justify the decision to your stakeholders.

3. Prioritize the key objectives.

Communicate your priorities to get buy-in from all the key stakeholders. If one group of stakeholders has goals that aren’t realistic, be transparent when you explain what you can and can’t do.

Set expectations around the acronym SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

Next, decide what the key performance indicators (KPIs) are that will be used to evaluate the results. Determine what steps need to be taken to reach your goal(s), how progress will be measured, and identify concrete deliverables.

4. Discuss the expectations with your stakeholders.

stakeholderCommunicate the expectations to your stakeholders using clear and concise language. They should know from the outset what tasks they need to perform (if any) and have deadlines for meeting specific milestones.

It’s important to choose an effective method of communication. This might mean notifying stakeholders with an executive summary, a speech at a conference, or a newsletter. As you craft your message, make sure to set an appropriate and respectful tone, include all key stakeholders, and express your commitment to serving their needs.

5. Set up an internal reporting structure.

Set up a reporting structure for your project. Will you receive reports on the financing of the project, the achievement of expectations, or interim achievement of expectations? If you are developing a new product line, for example, what milestones are you going to hear about?

Revisit each step and fine-tune periodically. If an interim goal is missed, you need to know why and understand how this will impact the project overall. Is a different approach required? Are deadlines overly tight? Is more mentorship needed? Consider all these angles before moving forward.

6. Communicate with stakeholders throughout the process.

For C-suite executives dealing with multiple stakeholders, the best strategy is to have a communications plan throughout the process. Why? Because stakeholders have multiple commitments and limited time. Some stakeholders, such as employees, will follow the progress of a project consistently; others, such as venture capitalists, probably won’t want to receive frequent updates.

Schedule regular and consistent communication to keep stakeholders focused and invested, while still respecting professional boundaries. The communication method you choose should facilitate a discussion and allow them opportunities to respond.

If expectations are being met, toot your own horn! If the project has setbacks, let stakeholders know why and explain what you’ll do to overcome them.

Transparency helps instill a sense of trust, which in turn makes it more likely for your stakeholders to work with you again in the future.

Establishing Leadership in the C-Suite

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About the Author

Rita Williams is a freelance writer on a wide range of topics, including careers, human resources trends and personal finance. She works with both job-seekers and companies to educate and inform them about best practices – and shows humor and understanding while doing it.