In simple terms, stakeholder management is the process of forming, monitoring and most importantly, maintaining positive relationships with stakeholders. These are either specific individuals, groups or even organisations that can affect or be affected by a programme. Effective stakeholder management can create constructive relationships through the appropriate management of expectations and agreed objectives. Managing stakeholders can be a project in itself that sometimes, if not executed correctly, can turn uncontrollable. So what is the best way to avoid the chaos?

1. Identify all the stakeholders at the beginning of the project
Making a list of who exactly your stakeholders are can be very helpful during the course of the programme. You need to identify, recognise and acknowledge all of the stakeholders. Additionally, this will assist you in determining their level of influence and interest in the project

2. Make sure that all the stakeholders agree on the project’s deliverables and what their roles are
Before the project even begins, you need to be able to establish rules of engagement defining everyone’s functions. You must arrive at a complete mutual agreement on what the project will deliver and the role specification for each person.

3. Practise good communication
Before beginning to influence and engage stakeholders, it is important to firstly ensure whether the intended message that is to be delivered is understood, and the anticipated response will be achieved. Moreover, you need to determine the frequency of communication and what will it include. Communication has to be meaningful to all the stakeholders.

4. Prioritise your stakeholders
After you have created your list with all possible stakeholders, the next step is to prioritise them, as not all may have an equal amount of interest in the project. It is essential that you map out your stakeholders on a Power/Interest Grid and classify them by their power over, and interest in your work. There are four different types of stakeholders using the power/interest grid:
(a) High power - interested people
(b) High power - less interested people
(c) Low power - interested people
(d) Low power - less interested people

5. Engage stakeholders throughout the process
The importance of engaging the stakeholders in problem solving, reviewing the requirements and creating lessons learnt is repeatedly emphasised by experts. You need to frequently ask the right questions in order to gain useful information and ideas. Ask and listen to how they feel.

6. Empathise with stakeholders – they are humans as well!
It is important to be able to put yourself in another’s shoes to determine the success of the project. You should try to identify their goals and observe how they think the project will impact them. Additionally, accept that sometimes they may not behave in a rational, consistent and predictable way, they are only human!