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Keeping stakeholders engaged during a recovery programme - LOC

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London: Peter Osborne, managing director of LOC Consulting, on best practice for stakeholder engagement during programme recovery.

If a programme of change is put into recovery, stakeholders will inevitably play a critical role in getting it back on track. Their commitment and engagement can make the difference between a project or programme's ultimate success or failure. In order to recover the identity and integrity of a programme, project management need to ensure influential stakeholders use their authority and leadership to clear a path back to successful delivery.

Establish terms of reference for stakeholders

Project management must consider stakeholders as operating along two axes of interest and influence. The process of developing a RACI chart will help identify and define the different interests and influences of stakeholders, as well as their level of involvement. Clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are key to delivering a successful programme. It is essential that both stakeholders' expectations and the expectations of the programme are communicated, understood and most critically supported.

Engage the business sponsor

It is imperative that all recovery initiatives are owned and driven top-down from senior leadership. By ensuring the correct business sponsor is in place, it is the role of the programme manager to ensure that senior leadership clearly understands programme objectives in relation to the wider business. The additional perspective can also pre-emptively identify challenges, and their solutions, that are specific to the industry the programme targets. This will provide the necessary framework for a smooth programme recovery process, and restore confidence in a potentially demoralised team and nervous management through more streamlined goals.

Give stakeholders a reason to be engaged

Once a programme has lost direction, management must give stakeholders the business imperative to re-engage by proving both the relevance and the value of what's being delivered. By actively involving the business sponsor, the programme can attract the interest and support of influential business leads. This will bolster the project's 'clout' and underline its relevance which, in turn, supports the value of the project to stakeholders and the organisation. In addition, management must demonstrate that stakeholder's time, expertise, and influence are being used efficiently and effectively for the benefit of the programme in order to retain their interest and commitment. Most critically they need to see that their comments and views are included and are influencing the shape and direction of the programme.

Communications must be relevant and more effective

Delivering top-down communications through established channels is an excellent opportunity to re-engage wider stakeholders and re-affirm commitment to a programme. Other forms of communication are required for ensuring a likely demoralised programme team is guided through the recovery process. Creativity will prove far more compelling than the traditional models of business meetings and emails. Moreover this approach will help a demoralised team bond and add value to participants' experience of the programme. Reviewing the Communication plan and agreeing the message and medium will aid in this process.

Programme recovery cannot be achieved without a clearly defined stakeholder engagement strategy. Programme management must take responsibility for nurturing relationships with all impacted stakeholders. Understanding the 'who' as well as the 'what', 'when' and 'how' is key to successfully completing the programme recovery journey.

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