Stateholder Relationship Management (Written by John Mitchell)

It is no exaggeration to say that the ability of organisations, whether public or private, to operate within our society depends not only on their success in wealth creation or, for the public sector, achievement in the delivery of Government policy, but also on their capacity to meet the expectations of a diverse and often changing group of constituents who contribute to their existence and success. These constituencies and interests are the organisation’s stakeholders. All organisations must, as a consequence, be engaged in utilizing resources to create benefits for all its stakeholders now and into the future.

That said, what we have found in practice is somewhat different. Organisations recognise that they often have a quite enormous group of stakeholders but when tested will generally admit to only addressing the needs of a small number. They talk about those stakeholder groups who are a priority at that time, those who have the ability to negatively impact on the organisation, those that are the proverbial ‘squeaky wheel, and those that they simply can’t ignore. When the conversation turns to stakeholder relationship management organisations will often give a quick assurance that they have CRM software up and running. Unfortunately, having the software is not the same as managing the issue!

At this stage some definitions may be helpful. Stakeholders may be defined as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objective.” Building on this, stakeholder relationship management is not software, long lunches or even coffee, rather it is best defined as “the means to manage and monitor stakeholder relationships that will ultimately impact on the organisations performance and reputation.” To manage stakeholders effectively to achieve this outcome a number of things are necessary.

They include:
 A real understanding of who our stakeholders are. It is simple to say that we should manage our stakeholders but how do we envisage this happening when we are less than clear who they all are?

 A way of managing our stakeholder list – it is here that our CRM software can be useful. It is important to remember that our stakeholder list is almost certainly not fixed; the list grows as new stakeholders are ‘acquired’ and equally stakeholder groups may be removed from the list when the relationship ends.

 It is absolutely necessary to have an effective method of grouping stakeholders or stakeholder groups. Once we have a listing of our stakeholders and the ability to group stakeholders in a meaningful way we can make good decisions about the appropriate management (and the resources we need to devote) of different stakeholders groups or even individual stakeholders.

 Stakeholder management should be included in strategic plans. In this way effective and meaningful management of stakeholders is given the right level of corporate attention and managed through a set of agreed actions and measures.

 The management of stakeholders won’t just happen.’ Firstly, it must be led from the top. Secondly, staff with responsibility for managing the organisations stakeholders must understand that it is necessary for them to make time for this important activity and that they will mange stakeholders in accord with the organisations agreed practice.

However, there is one over-arching issue that we should highlight. We can start with a seemingly simple statement; “great stakeholder relationships are built on the basis of mutual benefit.” As said, seemingly simple but it is critical that there is an organisational understanding and genuine appreciation that stakeholders do not exist to be used. Stakeholder management will only be successful is there exists a long term, mutually beneficial relationship between the organisation and its stakeholders. Of course, the relationship may be different for different stakeholder groups (that being the point of the grouping referred to above) but it must be managed properly and consistent. And in this context what does managed properly mean? Like all good relationships we need many elements including effective communication, appreciation, mutual respect, openness, collaboration, trust and more. In short stakeholder relationship management is just that; it needs quality management and a good relationship to produce all the benefits available.

Integral Development offers the following stakeholder relationship management training sessions:
 A two hour short presentation and Q & A session;
 A half day workshop which incorporates a stakeholder management model and methodologies for grouping stakeholders; and
 A full day workshop with all the above plus tools to support staff in further developing their stakeholder relationship skills.

For further information call Integral Development on 9242 8122.

Written by John Mitchell, Senior Consultant and Executive Coach with Integral Development.

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Feature Article: Michael Fox Q&A

1. Describe your personality.
I am a fairly calm person and am interested in the world around me (in organizations, politics, the arts) as well as what is happening on the inside for me. I enjoy being with people and working on projects with others, particularly if I think that the project is inherently worthwhile. In recent years I have been one of the tutors for the Living Philosophy course that Integral Institute Australasia runs and I have enjoyed teaching and sharing with others about living more in the moment and letting go of the endless chatter that so easily fills my mind and that of others.

2. What are your strengths as a Consultant?
In recent years I have spent much of my work as a consultant undertaking surveys with quite a variety of organisations. My strengths as a consultant in this arena include being able to structure surveys so that they meet the needs of the specific organization and to work with my organisational contacts to ensure that the process goes smoothly. I particularly enjoy working with management groups in helping them to understand the feedback that they are receiving from their employees and to find creative ways of responding to the issues that the survey results raise. I find that I can often facilitate productive discussions on sensitive issues without people taking offense.

3. What’s your most memorable workshop you’ve conducted and why?
One of the workshops that I facilitated this year sticks in my mind because of the way in which the group of managers and coordinators grappled with the organisational survey data that I presented to them and really came to see some of the issues in a good deal of depth. Not only did they come to understand what was going on in the organisation but they also saw clearly some of the connections between these issues. When it came to generating appropriate action plans, their level of understanding of the organisational culture that flowed from the process made it relatively easy for them to be focused and creative in responding to the issues that they were trying to address.

4. Where do you see Integral Development in 5 years time?
I see Integral Development in a really exciting space in five years time. Not only will it have further developed its technologies and instruments that it uses in leadership and organizational development but its group of consultants, coaches and staff will have grown in number and capacity to support one another in being integral human beings who provide exceptional service and support to individuals and organizations. It will also have taken further major steps to operate in a sustainable way and to facilitate this movement in other organizations within Australia and overseas.

5. What are your thoughts on Leadership for the future?
In my view leadership for the future has to tackle issues which are complex and long-term in a world which is often fixated on short-term results. The sort of leadership that can take people where they are but help them see that we are all in this together and that we all need to contribute in ways appropriate to us in addressing the big issues of our day is going to be essential if we are going to overcome the inertia and cynicism that often surrounds these matters.

6. If you could invite 5 people to dinner, who would they be?
Having recently read Dreams from my Father I would find it fascinating to have Barack and Michelle Obama to dinner. I would also invite Geraldine Doogue and Phillip Adams as they both demonstrate interesting perspectives on life and a very broad awareness of what is happening around the world. I would invite my wife, Anne, to share in this experience too.

7. Who is Leader that inspires you and why?
Ray Anderson, the Chairperson of the carpet company, Interface Flor, is a leader who inspires me. I first came upon Ray when I was teaching a unit in Organisational Structure and Design for the Business School at UWA. What struck me about him and his story was the way in which he went through a conversion experience in relation to the unsustainability of his own business and then set about pursuing a 25 year goal to climb Mount Sustainability. In the process he has brought his own staff with him on that journey and inspired many other leaders and organizations to take similar steps and to fashion a whole new industrial revolution.

8. If you were stranded on a desert island, what book and 2 items would you like with you?
At the moment, I would like to have Otto Scharmer’s book, Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges and I would also like to have my iphone loaded up with some good music, videos and podcasts along with a solar charger so that I could keep using it.