My stakeholders wouldn’t approve…

Have you ever made decisions that you assumed to directly threaten your relationship with one or more stakeholders? I am sure you have, at least in you private sphere! Normally we however like to keep our relationships calm, clear and as uncomplicated as possible. Where I come from (Norway) we also like to keep the level of conflict as low as possible. Based on this I was until lately of the opinion that stakeholder management was exclusively a tool for ensuring good collaboration with other people and organisations that have the power to impact your business, or that possibly will be impacted by your organisations activities, positively or negatively. Recently I have however learned first hand that maintaining a low conflict level with all stakeholders isn't necessarily always the most valuable approach.

Stakeholder management is a tool for understanding and assessing different threats, benefits and possible outcomes from the various relationships a company has with the external and internal surroundings. Which degree of conflict or calm, trust or scepticism you choose to pursue in a relationship with a stakeholder should really depend on which is assessed to give you the least costs

and the most benefits. I am certain that you would benefit from taking a few moments to look at the relationships you have with different stakeholders and assess the effect of your current strategy:

  1. Are you focusing too much on maintaining agreable relations with all of your stakeholders, ensuring that they are happy, sometimes at the cost of your own benefit?

  2. What are your interests and desired benefits from a relationship? Are your actions and your communication plans supporting your side of the equation as well as the side of the stakeholders?

  3. Do you need to maintain active relations with all your current stakeholders?

  4. Could some of the relations you maintain stand in the way for new market opportunities or inovation?

  5. Are you certain that a less consensus based approach to specific stakeholders would hurt your company and your longterm objectives?

Despite my new «discovery», I am still of the opinion that stakeholder management gives great opportunities to create pull and support from your relations, and that calm, agreable relations based on collaboration, communication and compliance normally supports objectives and improves value creation. It is however worth to review your list of stakeholder from a different point of view from time to time, and chose strategically where and when you should be allowing for the potential conflict to arrise and where and when you should do your best to keep it calm and friendly.

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