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Why map your stakeholders?

At the start of a new financial year organisations generally look to their strategic plan to set their operational goals and budgets. For those of us in the business of managing relationships and resolving conflict, a key step in this process must include stakeholder mapping.

The term ‘stakeholder’ is often thrown about in project management or policy discussions by everyone from engineers to politicians. In essence, a stakeholder is any individual that has an interest in, or influence upon, the project delivery or outcome. When it comes to conflict management and resolution, particularly in public service agencies, we often see repeat parties in the disputes before us. In such a context, it is very useful to consider the stakeholders to your conflict resolution processes and ensure that you have carefully thought about the priority you would give each stakeholder.

So how do we identify who our key stakeholders are and ensure that we invest resources in the most important relationships?

Organisations can start by working together and asking their teams the following questions.

1) Who has an interest in the work that we are doing?

2) Who has influence or power over the work that we do?

Those stakeholders that have both a high influence and high interest in your work must be prioritised in any negotiation, dispute resolution or complaints handling process. If you identify that your priority stakeholders may throw up communication barriers, such as high conflict behaviour, then it is important for the organisation to invest time into ensuring that your staff are prepared to manage this.

By going through a stakeholder mapping activity, you may also find that too much time is spent engaging with stakeholders that have little influence in your work. The noisiest stakeholder is not always the most important one, and yet somehow, they attract a greater level of resources from your team. In a resource limited environment, this is the first group of stakeholders where you can consider cutting back your level of communication with.

When done as a team, a stakeholder mapping session will assist you to connect with your colleagues as to which relationships you need to prioritise and what communication approaches might be most useful in building stronger relationships with those stakeholders. In some cases, there may be stakeholders that present opportunities for your team to improve its conflict resolution processes.

There are many online tools that assist organisations to facilitate their own stakeholder mapping sessions. Contact us if you would like assistance in creating one for your team.

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