Stakeholder Engagement

Recently I went to a luncheon hosted by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, which my company was proud to sponsor. (See our logo on the banner to right of stage above.)

The topic of the luncheon was “What’s Up, Halifax?” and four panelists represented major projects in beautiful Halifax.

The panelists, Alex Halef, President of BANC Group of Companies, Dov Bercovici, President & CEO, Discovery Centre, Bob Bjerke, Chief Planner and Director, Planning and Development, Halifax Regional Municipality, Steve Snider, CEO & General Manager, Halifax Harbour Bridges, were asked questions which had been pre-submitted to the moderator. Several questions were about improving our city for businesses and residents.

What struck me with the questions and answers was the emphasis on stakeholder engagement, not only from resident and business to the government and developers, but also among the city and developers.

From the answers, you could see that communication was obviously good between the city and development representatives. They communicated in front of over 100 people and were willing to answer the audience’s questions and discuss topics among themselves in the open.

It was also heartening to see that both parties were open to further increasing their communication and stakeholder engagement.

According to PMI, a stakeholder is “an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project.”

Knowing who the perceived stakeholders are can be the most difficult part of identifying stakeholders.

For the cities and towns we live in, we are all stakeholders, and I know the government is conscientious in my area to seek input from residents and businesses. But there can always be more input and improvement on engagement.

Is that a bad thing? No. Projects are continuously improving all the time, and we should expect that to be so.

I have observed over the years that, as project managers, we often don’t realize how much project stakeholders want to be involved in a project. Sometimes we might think we are bothering a client or user, other times we think they don’t really want to be engaged at a certain level of depth. Should we assume how much stakeholders want to be involved? Well, no. We should ask them. The answer might be surprising.

Involving stakeholders is a key, and valuable, tenet of project management.

Brenda Fay