Whatever kind of project your organization is planning, change management will be essential to its successful implementation. It is vital that all stakeholders are engaged in and supportive of the project, but garnering that support and keeping everyone in the loop can be easier said than done. Generating stakeholder buy-in is simply more successful in the long run with an approach that manages change in a careful, strategic and sustainable way. It’s most important to pay attention to those stakeholders with the highest amount of influence over the implementation and longevity of the project or of the new system being put into place. Ideally, though, all stakeholders should be on board. Here are a few tips to help your team achieve this kind of buy-in, engagement and support for your next big project.

What is Change Management?

This simultaneously holistic and systematic approach to managing development and transition within an organization relies on the general principle that successful change can only occur when all the people involved are engaged, properly informed and trained. Being proactive about managing change is the first step to generating stakeholder buy-in, engagement and support for your project. This proactive approach includes active collaboration among stakeholders, strategic risk planning, clear lines of communication and identification of key concerns and components during the entire lifecycle of the project. While businesses and organizations spend millions designing projects and planning how to make their operations more efficient, failing to recognize and address these human issues throughout the project implementation can lead to failure. The change management approach ensures maximum return on an organization’s investment into virtually any project.

The First Steps to Managing Stakeholders

If you want to ensure that all your stakeholders are on board, and continue to manage their support and engagement throughout the lifecycle of the project, it is important to begin with identification of all the teams and individual people who will be affected by any aspect of the project. This should involve careful analysis and assessment of all the people and teams who will either get something out of the project or contribute something to the project. A project team should be appointed to determine what each stakeholder will contribute to or gain from the project, how much influence they will have and, most importantly, how they feel about the project. The reason this step is so important is that negative attitudes can weaken the integrity of a project and undermine its potential for success and longevity. When stakeholders don’t feel positive about the project they’re required to work on and the changes it will bring to the company, they are very unlikely to put a lot of effort into their contribution. Negative attitudes spread like wildfire, and before you know it, the project will be completely off course. A little extra planning, analysis and honest communication during these initial stages goes a long way in ensuring the success of any project, from implementing new data systems to transitioning into new phases of development to rebranding and beyond.

Continued Analysis and Training to Stay on Course

Even after the project team has initially assessed the abilities, influences, involvement and perspectives of all stakeholders, it will still be necessary to identify and analyze the attitudes and efforts of teams and individuals throughout the lifecycle of the project. Doing these recurring assessments allows the project team to make more effective decisions regarding communication, commitment, training, risk management and the best ways to attain strategic goals.

The Best Approaches to Stakeholder Assessment

There are many approaches to assessing individual stakeholders and groups of stakeholders, including rating their involvement and influence by a numbered system or by a standard of low, medium and high. As far as attitudes and engagement go, colored systems that indicate a standard of detractors, neutrals and supporters is an effective approach. Being systematic in the approach to assessing stakeholder buy-in and engagement enables the project team to design a plan for communicating, training and dividing tasks and responsibilities effectively. The colored rating system for stakeholder support also reduces the potential for risks, as the ratings indicate exactly where outreach and communication are needed most. Stakeholders with negative attitudes who carry a large amount of influence should be the priority in these efforts, although everyone affected by the project should be in the loop from beginning to end. At the same time, these recurring assessments also allow the project team to identify individuals and teams with positive attitudes, who may serve as vital allies in the days and weeks to come.