Managing Stakeholders that Don’t Have a Voice

Stakeholder management is always performed within the context of the organizational environment. The project management community exists within this context. There is always an organizational power structure within and without the project management community, and no matter how flat an organization is, it still tends to be top down within the project world.

With that said, I have a question for you, “how do you manage stakeholders that don’t have a voice in your project planning?”

For example:
-the employees that are being downsized or replaced with automation
-the community that is losing the indirect benefits of your office, factory or distribution centre being located in town
-they’re losing the donations to local sports teams, volunteers for the hundred volunteer organizations in town, lunch money from the genesis of lunch time diners and shoppers
-the neighborhood that is being devalued or re-located due to a shift in corporate development
-the disabled within the community that can’t compete for your ever changing requirements for staff that enable you to, “remain competitive in the marketplace!”

In some cases, those without a voice step up and demand a say. One of my friends was involved in the downsizing of a large steel manufacturing plant in the US. The employees got together with their unions, rallied their financial capital and bought the plant. Not only did they disagree with the corporate leadership, but they were able to do something about it.

This is rare in the world of projects. In most cases there is no representative to stand up for the unseen stakeholder who simply wasn’t invited to the planning meetings.

My suggestion is that you encourage your organization to develop a policy of stewardship based on principles of fairness, community involvement and social responsibility. Give those unseen stakeholders a voice. Enable them to have an input on the outcome of your projects and the impact of your organization.

At a lower level, some of these stakeholders can be incorporated into your project charter and possibly be represented by a focus group or through a survey. If it isn’t a priority to include these stakeholders, they simply won’t have a voice, and the outcome of your projects may be entirely different.

Larry T Barnard
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