Barriers to engagement – OPEN

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Topic 2.8: Barriers to engagement

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However much time you think you need for stakeholder engagement, double it, and it still won’t be enough.

Paul’s First Law of Project Management

If you want (and need) the full commitment of stakeholders to your project, it might also be useful to understand what stands in the way of their engagement.

It is good practice to identify and address these barriers as part of your engagement strategy.

Stakeholder engagement fails to achieve its full potential when stakeholders:

Are denied the opportunity to participate

Are presented with poorly defined issues or problems

Lack sufficient knowledge and information about the project

Are insufficiently empowered to be able to contribute effectively

Are placed in emotionally upsetting situations

Lack the skills to be able to contribute effectively

Conflict with (or perceive bias towards) other stakeholders

Have doubts about the capability, stability or availability of the project team, or

Feel their input is not valued and/or their time is being wasted.

Stakeholders' value comes from their unique ability to provide information and influence to your project

In their Stakeholder Engagement Standard AA1000SES (modified here for project management), AccountAbility argue that quality stakeholder engagement must:

Clearly define its scope

Have a transparent decision-making process

Focus on issues material to the project and/or its stakeholders

Create opportunities for dialogue

Be integral to project governance

Have a process appropriate to the stakeholders engaged

Be timely, flexible and responsive, and

Add value to both the project and its stakeholders.

In practice, this means the project manager must:

Get the right stakeholders to the table

Use consistent and appropriate messages

Avoid assigning intentions, beliefs or motives to others

Ask questions instead of stating untested assumptions!

Stay focused on the key issues

Listen and be respectful, allowing others to express their opinions completely

Make sure that opportunities for input are evenly shared

Preserve the right of others to disagree

Honour each party’s right to remain anonymous or “pass”

Use the information collected

Later in this Module we will take a closer look at how to facilitate engagement and conduct a (stakeholder) meeting.

The principles of management and leadership are also comprehensively explored in Module 3 on project delivery and close.

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