In a previous post I had discussed how changing technology might call for a change in approach to make implementing and managing change in an LMS more effective and fruitful. ‘Stakeholder engagement’ is a term commonly thrown around in the communications and project management worlds. One that, although there are many popular ‘buzz-words’, should not be overlooked. People are the core of everything and without the people’s buy in, support, and effort, any initiative will ultimately fall short. Understanding who your stakeholders are and how to engage them is not rocket science, but I will elaborate anyway to give you a starting point in case you’ve never broached this topic in your own mind.
The first thing we need to understand is who the stakeholders are. After that we can look at ideas on how to get them engaged in our initiative. So, who are stakeholders? In a nutshell, they are anyone with any interest in or influence on the change, whatever it may be. There are types of stakeholders which I will outline briefly:
Key Stakeholders – These are people affected by the change taking place, whose influence could ultimately cause the project to succeed or fail, and whose interests must be taken into account if the change has any chance of success. Typically, in the Learning world, these are your executive sponsors within the group implementing the system—the people that sign the purchase order, or those who can quickly halt the entire project if they aren’t happy. (If you’ve made it through procurement and are looking at implementation, these folks have already been identified). So, they signed—what now? It is important to ensure that you truly understand the expectations of the key stakeholders so that your idea of success aligns with theirs. You can do that in many ways, but the easiest is simply person to person communication to ensure that expectations are realistic and properly set.
Stakeholders – This group is typically composed of those who have a vested interest in the outcome, but have little influence at the decision-making level. In our world, this would be the trainers, training administrators, coordinators, or anyone else in the training department who wants life to get easier but relies on the key stakeholders to make it that way due to lack of signature authority. Once signed, though, the stakeholders take over and own the outcome. Typically, the stakeholders are the ones driving the change once it is in contract, so engaging them isn’t as much of an issue because they are typically already 100% engaged since the outcome weighs on them.
Users – Too often in a change management initiative the users are overlooked. This is the largest mistake that organizations can make—especially when results depend on user adoption. Users are simply defined as anyone having contact with the implementation/change/process/product. In our world of Learning, they are the learners. Regardless of how well we get key stakeholder buy-inand have stakeholder engagement, if we don’t have users, we have nothing.
Engaging the various stakeholder groups should ideally begin prior to a vendor being selected, and most often the ‘Key Stakeholders’ and ‘Stakeholders’ mentioned above are already in communication due to the fact that they are typically involved in the decision-making process. Ideally, the end user stakeholder group should be strategically communicated to during the vendor selection process so that they know change is coming and can prepare for and see it in a positive way. Once a decision is made, the users definitely need to be quickly brought into the fold around the time the project is kicking off, so that as implementation is occurring, users are feeling a sense of involvement in the project and the coming change and are consistently engaged in the initiative in various ways. That way, by the time the ‘Go-Live’ of the system occurs, the users have had many weeks of exposure leading up to it and are fully on board, excited, and ready to start doing things in a new, and hopefully better, way.
So, we have defined who we need to engage and who is, typically, already engaged, but how do we engage them? There are various ways, which are already discussed on the net, of engaging and communicating with large groups of stakeholders, so I won’t reinvent the wheel. I will simply guide you to resources. Prior to doing that, though, I will leave you with this thought, and it’s not monumental–put yourself in their shoes, understand what is important to them, and allow them a voice in that regard.