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May 2009
Leveraging Stakeholder Management and Communications
By T.J. Eberle

     Stakeholder management and communications are two of the most important components to any successful change initiative. These activities form the foundation that facilitates the integration of people, process and technology by effectively managing change to deliver results, strengthen your organization or help you survive during challenging times. Most will acknowledge that, without communication, major changes (or even minor ones) cannot occur; but why is stakeholder management important?

     Stakeholder management is, simply stated, knowing your audience. To effectively manage and deliver change, it’s critical to understand your stakeholders—how they will be impacted, how they are rewarded, what they will gain by the change, and what they will lose. These answers help identify resistance issues to build a profile of each stakeholder. This information is critical to the development of change initiatives because one of the most successful and effective means to manage and deliver change is to use targeted communications to address resistance issues proactively, while mitigating the rumor mill.

     On the surface, “communications” seems like an easy concept in which we all participate daily through e-mails, meetings, and hallway conversations. Many of us believe we communicate frequently and clearly, and that our message should always be understood. However, often, we are left baffled when we learn of communication gaps or miscommunication issues. Where do these non-value communications end and effective communications begin? To leverage communications as a tool for successfully managing change, you must return to the stakeholder analysis. A strong analysis of your stakeholders will guide you in the development of targeted strategies designed to inform, influence and prepare. Once you identify the strategies for each audience, you design specific communications activities (e.g., e-mails, meetings, handouts, etc.) and timing.

     Stakeholder management and communications go hand-in-hand. To successfully deliver sustainable change, you depend on the acceptance of your employees. Stakeholder management identifies the issues and impacts for each stakeholder to help you mitigate the risk of resistance. Leverage your understanding of your stakeholders to over communicate, thereby decreasing resistance and increasing acceptance.

     Stakeholder management and communications are not about making everyone happy; they’re about providing employees with the awareness and information to prepare them for the change and ultimately, enable them to make the decision to change.

“Know” your stakeholders and implement effective communication strategies to instill the change you seek.

     T.J. Eberle is president and CEO of NouvEON, a regional business and technology consulting firm. Contact him at 704-944-3155 or visit www.NouvEON.com.

T.J. Eberle is president and CEO of NouvEON, a regional business and technology cunsulting firm.
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