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The Secret Ingredient for Successful Project Leadership

A person hears only what they understand.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Keywords: Communication, Engagement, Stakeholders, Senior stakeholder engagement. 

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The Secret Ingredient for Successful Project Leadership   [P195]
Investing in stakeholder engagement pays dividends   [P195 - PMI Adelaide presentation]

When it comes to understanding how to ensure the successful delivery of organisational value, stakeholder engagement has been one of the best kept secrets. There is now an emerging recognition of the importance of people in the formula for success: there is recognition that projects are really about ‘people doing work for the benefit of other people’.  By adapting attitudes and approaches, stakeholder initiated disruption can be minimised through proactive engagement activities.

For decades literature and research have identified the need to focus on stakeholder engagement as a means for delivery of value to organisations through successful delivery of a project’s objectives – whether product, service or result. At the same time organisations are requiring the project leadership to do more with less. It should come as no surprise then, that senior management in organisations are resisting any calls to spend more time (and therefore more funds) on additional communication to build the necessary relationships between the project and its stakeholders.

An example of how early stakeholder engagement with its consequent additional consultation, communication and negotiation will add value to the project and all the partner organisations is highlighted in studies of extractive industries around the world, including South America Australia and New Guinea.These studies show that neglecting the lives and economies of the indigenous communities will cause a backlash that can lead to early closing of these projects and often radical action from those most affected. The findings of each of these studies have shown that a peaceful resolution will only come from consultation with those who are affected – not just their leaders. This is an example of how early stakeholder engagement with its consequent additional consultation, communication and negotiation will add value to the project and all the partner organisations – a practice that is not always supported by the management of those organisations.

This paper draws on some case studies of projects within the extractive industries in New Guinea and South America and develops arguments that may persuade corporate executives to apply more funding and support on stakeholder engagement activities. This paper develops: a definition of the value of stakeholders to an organization; a suggestion for building a business case for more effective stakeholder engagement activities; a connection between risk management and effective stakeholder engagement activities and a description of a maturity model to assist organisations understand how best to focus scarce resources. These findings are developed into a maturity model with general application, designed to assist organisations understand how best to focus scarce resources in the effective management of stakeholders to maximise project and program value.

Author: Lynda Bourne

Presented at:
Fifth International Scientific Conference on Project Management
in the Baltic Countries
   
Project Management Development – Practice and Perspectives
Riga, Latvia
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