Formalising Stakeholder Relationship Management in an Organization

36322_3149I recently had an interesting conversation with a manager that had been tasked to formalise stakeholder management in his organisation (a Bank).

Without being able to do an in depth analysis of the specifics and needs of the bank, I summarised his basic needs as:

1. There is a need to start a strategic conversation process in the Bank about Stakeholder Management

2. Stakeholder Management are currently fragmented and there is a need for a more unified and strategic approach to its management

3. Special Focus needs to be placed on changing social reputation issues and stakeholder actions

This is what I suggested to improve stakeholder relationship management within the Bank.

My approach has always been to marry the discipline of Stakeholder Management with that of Corporate Reputation Management . I believe that that is a sound approach – after all an organization’s most important asset is its reputation, yet it is also its biggest risk.

My approach rests on the fact that an organization’s reputation is derived from the way that an organization is seen, heard about, spoken about and written about by stakeholders.

Reputation Risk emerges when the reasonable expectations of stakeholders are not met when it comes to performance and behaviour. Thus, if an organization wants to optimise its reputation, it has to carefully manage the interplay between and relationships with various stakeholders.

Whatever is done in Stakeholder Management impacts directly on the reputation of the institution. It is much like juggling a number of balls. I believe that my interventions and consulting approach has something powerful and dynamic to add in that respect.

There are some clear benefits from what I suggest. I think that this process will enable you to raise the profile and positioning of the department (I am not suggesting the building of an empire – but more a knowledge management capability – one of influence and real power – not position power per se), raise the department’s level of influence and ultimately make an indelible impact on your own and the department’s reputation.

Here are the Stages of the Development Cycle as I see them:

Stage 1: Create a Common Reference & Framework

Ask any manager or SME in the Bank to define the word Stakeholder Management to you. Ask them what the Universal Clarkson Principles of SRM (Stakeholder Relationship Management) is about. Would I be right to say only a handful will know? Do the staff in CSI and Issues Management know these concepts? Do they know how important it is, to redefine stakeholders based on an issue or project every single time?

So the first objective will need to be to raise levels of awareness and understanding through the development of common definitions and terminologies. That we can do through a number of high-level presentations, workshops and other inclusive interventions.

1.1. Expose the Board and Executive Team to a short intervention (1 hour to 3 Hours max on Stakeholder Reputation) Reason: Waterfalls flow top to bottom

1.2. Expose the Marketing, Corporate Affairs and Communication team members to the concepts and ideas of Stakeholder Reputation Management by getting them to attend 2 day workshops on SRM (Example course outline ). The reason I suggest this is that they are involved in aspects of stakeholder management and can act as catalysts to further the approach in the Bank – like a virus spreading.

1.3. Expose BU Executives, Line management and HOD’s to the concepts and ideas of Stakeholder Reputation Management by getting them to attend 2 day workshops on SRM . To do this will need high-level management commitment and support, liaison with Learning & Development, OD, and Performance Management executives.

1.4. Start a common language process within the Bank by using vehicles such as the internal newsletter and tools such as the Intranet to get the message out there.

1.5. Develop a Series of Management Protocols and Guidelines (The Strategic Rules of Engagement that I call them) that can be used as reference points in the Bank on how to establish relationships, leverage and enhance those relationships with Stakeholders (Please note that I did not say manage – I don’t think you manage a relationship, you can manage the people involved, the processes, the tools but not the relationship – if you differ of the opinion let’s debate it). These guidelines can be used as training, coaching and performance management tools and incorporated into the knowledge management system of the Bank.

The information for these guides will essentially come from the workshops that I run and record as well as literature research and other information, and the on-going communication from delegates as they deal with stakeholders and share that information with us.

Stage 2: Formalise Stakeholder Management

2.1 This stage will include a more standardised approach to measuring stakeholder relationships and will entail the development of measurement criteria and tools – as I suggested a type of dashboard effect. (It is at this stage where I see decisions be taken about the positioning of SSRM in the Bank).

2.2 It will entail the inclusion of Stakeholder Management into the Bank’s existing Performance Management system such as Balanced Scorecards etc.

My reasoning is that you cannot hold an employee accountable for relationships with stakeholders if you have not empowered him or her with specific knowledge on how to do so.

I used the example today of diversity training. Diversity training is a form of stakeholder training as it empowers people to understand their own inherent prejudices, deal with them and move on in ways that can only be positive.

Most important this whole process needs a Champion. Someone that will be prepared to take risk and have the passion to push for this within the Bank. This is a pivotal role. In my 25 years of internal and external consulting any process without a Champion have little chance of succeeding. (As Guy Pinchot wrote years ago: “Change activates the Corporate Immune Response”. You need to deal and push through those boundaries).

These are my immediate thoughts. Based on experience, this is not an overnight or a singular workshop experience. It will need resource application – dedication of effort, time and expertise.