GIRI Design Guide Preview: Stakeholder management

18 Aug 22

Many researchers have cited inadequate stakeholder management as a cause of project failures in construction and other industries. GIRI’s revised Design Guide focuses on how you can identify, map, and prioritise all internal and external stakeholders in a project, and establish a process for effectively managing and communicating with them. 

Stakeholder management is the continuous, iterative process of identifying, analysing, and engaging those with an interest in the project. It is integral to the design and delivery of all projects and, if done well, will help eliminate late interventions by stakeholders that can lead to design changes and errors. Time invested in understanding stakeholder needs, as well as the client’s sign-off and approval process, is never wasted.

However, the full benefits of stakeholder management have yet to be felt in construction. The industry’s processes struggle to address issues such as the impact of procurement, internal stakeholder collaboration, responsibility for stakeholder management, and project lifecycle. Even compiling a list of construction project stakeholders is challenging. Lists that are too long are complicated and cumbersome. Too short, and stakeholders are missed out and may ‘appear’ late in the process with the potential to adversely affect design or construction.

Establish and agree a stakeholder management process at the outset
Illustrate and agree the stakeholder management process with the client at the beginning of a project to ensure that it can be clearly communicated to the whole project team and properly integrated.

For smaller, simpler projects a less formal, less rigorously documented stakeholder management process led by the design team is likely to be the norm. For large or complex projects, professional third-party managers or facilitators may be appointed to focus on stakeholder engagement. 

The engagement plan needs to be clear on who manages which stakeholders. Too often there is an assumption that the contractor will manage them all when in fact the contractor may not have the authority or influence to do so.

Identify all internal and external stakeholders
Identifying all stakeholders at the start of the project eliminates the likelihood of other stakeholders ‘appearing’ later down the line. It is also important to identify all stakeholders in the client’s approval process.

Internal stakeholders are part of the client organisation or in legal contract with the client - potentially sub-divided by demand-side or supply-side. Examples include the client’s parent body (if the client is a subsidiary); tenants; members of the organisation’s board; or department heads.

External stakeholders have a direct interest in the project though do not necessarily have a contract with the client, and they may be subdivided into public and private sector. These include planning authorities, neighbours, amenity societies, and so on.

Analyse, map, and prioritise stakeholders
Identify those who have the greatest influence on the project, and those who may need additional support, by analysing, grouping and prioritising stakeholders against appropriate criteria. Assess the ‘status’ of all stakeholders, their concerns, and the associated risks and mitigation actions which might be required.

Tools such as a power/interest matrix or a responsibility matrix (RACI or its variants) may be useful. Understand the process used by each stakeholder to review and approve proposals, the level of detail each stakeholder requires, and the time it takes them to reach a decision. 

It is particularly important to identify the accountable person who will make a final decision or grant approvals within each organisation.

Design and deliver an engagement plan
Produce an engagement plan to facilitate communication and consultation. Assign a single point of contact for each stakeholder, and identify an appropriate method of communication.

Start early and revise regularly
Start the first three steps early enough to ensure communication and consultation is conducted when it is most useful to decision makers. Review the management process regularly and update as necessary to reflect changes in personnel and stakeholder input as the project progresses. Any external stakeholders with approval rights for specific issues should be treated in the same way as internal stakeholders to ensure appropriate consultation can be facilitated.

A more detailed discussion of stakeholder management is available in the revised GIRI Design Guide, which will be published later this year. Sign up to our newsletter to be notified once the guide is published.

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