Do stakeholders know how important their feedback is?
Updated: Feb 3, 2020
Stakeholders often fall into two extremes in terms of the impact they believe their feedback can have on project decisions:
Category 1: Highly influential - they think their feedback will be the most (or only) influential factor when project decisions are made.
Category 2: No influence - they think there’s no point in providing feedback, as ‘they’ (council etc) have already made up their mind.
If stakeholders fall into Category 1, they are often disappointed when their feedback isn’t as influential as they would like. This can lead to protests against project decisions, complaints that the engagement process was not genuine/thorough and/or a newly formed believe that their feedback has no influence over project decisions (a shift to Category 2).
If stakeholders fall into Category 2, then they are unlikely to provide feedback, as they believe it will be a waste of their time.
An effective engagement campaign outlines the project decisions that stakeholders can influence (see blog: Answer these three essential questions before you engage with stakeholders) and makes it clear from the outset how much influence they can over these decisions.
To get this right we want to show that stakeholder feedback is a key consideration in project decisions but that it is not the only consideration. One simple technique you can use to help convey this message is to use a version of the diagram below.
Key factors that contribute to project decisions
You can amend the diagram to align with your project circumstances e.g. you may need to add in legal or statutory considerations.
If you include too many boxes/factors in the diagram you reduce the risk of creating Category 1 stakeholders but increase the risk of creating Category 2 stakeholders.
If you don’t include enough boxes/factors in the diagram you reduce the risk of creating Category 2 stakeholders but increase the risk of creating Category 1 stakeholders.
Where applicable, engagement materials can provide further information about the decision influencing factors outlined in the diagram, such as budget limitations.
Your key stakeholders often have greater influence than the general public. This does not need to be publicised, its simply an understanding you develop with your key stakeholders based on the way you treat them.
Closing the loop effectively (see blog post) is another important way to build up trust that your organisation gives serious consideration to stakeholder feedback.