3 Pitfalls of Engagement Processes

Image by Rod KirkpatrickNot all key actors will engage in Stakeholder Dialogues in the same way. Some stakeholders are more difficult to engage. In many organizations, people continually change positions, send new people to meetings without briefing them or drop out of engagement processes pressured by other commitments. This can compromise the momentum and content of dialogue within and beyond the core group. For some new participants, everything may need to slow down or stop until they have been brought up to speed in their role as core group members, supporters or high-level sponsors. A Stakeholder Dialogue process cannot always be delayed, so it pays off to invest very consciously in container-building when new people are brought on board. In such a situation, relationship-building is the key. Sometimes, people do not understand the difference between a good container for change and a formal committee or task force composed of representatives. Any committee or task force can become a good container of course, but this will not happen automatically. The emotional commitment between people, as well as between people and the goal of the Stakeholder Dialogue, will only build up gradually, and only if the initiators invest enough time in relationship-building and in building the case for change. Have you stumbled into a pitfall? Have a look at these tips:

What if… Food for thought
…key actors do not want to get engaged, do not join the initial container or the broader container, and refuse to get involved?
  • Rethink the stakeholder analysis
  • Design specific strategies to engage difficult actors, and be sure that you understand what makes them engaged or disengaged
  • Check if the timing for the initiative is right
  • Convey the goal but link it to the interest of the difficult stakeholder
…people change positions, drop out or send substitutes.
  • Accept that you may need to slow the process down to ensure that you get the new people on board
  • If the people attending meetings continuously change try to engage superiors more consciously and explain how important it is that the same people attend consistently
  • Invest in relationship-building and invest time in getting people on board
…people do not understand the difference between a good container and a formal committee or task force?
  • Invest in relationship-building and building the case for change:  inspiring information, inspiring people, supporting people’s aspirations to make a difference, articulating future possibilities rather than maintaining the status quo
  • Honor people’s contributions and acknowledge their viewpoints
  • Create an atmosphere of creative and constructive exchange of ideas

Dive deeper and learn more about engagement processes in our open course:
Process Designs for Stakeholder Engagement – 01-04 July 2014 in Potsdam, Germany.