I had the good fortune to visit another progressive REALTOR association today. Something a board member said, and the exchanged glances between them, revealed an internal struggle they were having, which was managing their stakeholders. “New ideas are great but….”
I have often found when there is conflict between groups it is because there was a lack of a systematic process to manage stakeholders. Holding a Masters of Project Management and teaching Program Management for REALTOR University, I am a firm believer that a healthy organization has the people, processes and technology in balance. People are trained in the process of using the technology, the technology supports the process of the people’s work, and the people deliver effectively using the technology in a pre-defined process. Sound like a circle? Well it really is.
Ernest Baker (2012) said this at a Project Management Institute conference, “Problems can occur when we don’t take care of the people side. Problems often happen when one or more of the sides are out of balance. For example, we may have poorly defined processes, processes that produce errors, or undesirable outcomes. Rather than fix the broken process, we often invest in a new technology or toolset, one that ends up producing the errors faster! Another illustration of this concept would be when we have established processes, but the tool doesn’t support the process, so the people become the glue between the technology and the process. And, finally, improved processes and technology will not fix people problems! People problems require people solutions and that leads directly to stakeholder management.”
One of the concepts I teach in my program management class is to tailor key messages to specific stakeholder segments. But I am getting ahead of myself. The first means to manage stakeholders is to identify them and then identify their impact on the association. If all you do is a power interest grid in your stakeholder management you are probably miles ahead of most.
Next steps, once you have determined who you’re stakeholders are and their stake in the game (who has high power and high interest) there are several key steps beyond the simple actions defined in the grid. Define what you want from each group: Your high power-low interest stakeholder may lack engagement so your “want” is engagement. Another example your affiliate member may have little to know interest in your new MLS program and has very little power to affect it- so what do you want from this stakeholder? Perhaps its financial resources to sponsor broker meetings regarding the news service? Next identify the actions needed to gain support. Identify how you will incite those actions. Identify each of your key messages to each group- this is also how you manage expectations. Determine the message channels for each group (text, MLS pop-up, letter, etc.). Review and monitor your communications plan. Is it working? Does something need to be tweaked? What feedback have you gathered? Have you identified additional obstacles to acceptance/support and if so how will you change your communications?
Doing this type of work at the forefront of a new program, service, tool, policy, dues increase, will eliminate so much work at the end and will also result in a less agitated membership.