Communication is a critical skill for corporate transformation and innovation teams. When we think of communication in the context of innovation today, we need to include networking and stakeholder management. The projects you run affect other people, both internally and externally. The more people you affect, the more likely it is that your actions will impact people having the power and influence to make or break your project. Thus stakeholder management becomes a critical discipline for you to master to become successful with innovation projects.
You can get an idea of stakeholder management by thinking in terms of three steps: identification, profiling and communication.
The first step is to figure out who your stakeholders are. Think of internal and external people who can affect your project in both positive and negative ways, and people who might feel threatened or stand to gain from your project. Think not only of the obvious people such as your boss, but also of influencers who are not on a formal organization chart. Prioritize and place important stakeholders on a short list.
As criteria for placing people on the short list, ask yourself two questions: Does this person hold any impact on my project right now? Will this person have a high impact now, soon, or late in the project?
Although working with your stakeholders is important, you will often lack the time to work with all of them, so you need to prioritize them early on. However, you should always be prepared to change the status of the stakeholders and add new stakeholders when you learn of people being affected by your project.
The next step is to create short profiles of the stakeholders you have placed on your short list. Compile information such as:
The last step is to figure out what you want from your stakeholders and what you can offer them—and then communicate with them.
You might not feel you are ready to do so, but you need to communicate with your stakeholders early and often. This makes them know what you are doing and you can use their reactions to make changes that can increase the likelihood of success for your project.
People are usually quite open about their views, and the best way to start building successful relationships with your stakeholders is to talk directly with them. If you have problems getting in touch with the stakeholders, you might have to use more informal approaches such as “random meetings” in which you seek out places with a good chance of delivering an elevator pitch that might make the stakeholder more interested in your project.
You should do your homework before these meetings and interactions. Besides having crafted a profile, you should also know the most compelling messages to use with each stakeholder, and you should be able to deliver quick and concise elevator pitches based on these messages.
If you are not already working on your networking and stakeholder management skills, it is time to get started.
Stefan is an acclaimed author, keynote speaker, advisor and entrepreneur. He is a global thought leader on leadership in general and corporate innovation management in particular, he travels around the world to interact with executives and corporate innovation teams who want to take their innovation capabilities and efforts to the next level. The Silicon Valley mindset is key for this to happen. This mindset is rooted in one word: impact. By leveraging new technologies, talent, strong ecosystems, agile leadership, and ingenious approaches to business, Silicon Valley impacts entire industries in ways that shape the world. For a company to thrive—or even survive—in the next decade, its leaders will need to understand the Silicon Valley mindset and be able to put it to work. He helps executives on this through his Silicon Valley Fast Track venture. Stefan completed his entrepreneurial background in A.P. Møller Shipping School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — Sloan School of Management. For more information about the Silicon Valley Fast Track, please visit: www.siliconvalleyft.com.