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Ref! my stakeholders are offside

As in football, once a colleague is in an offside position, it is difficult to score a goal. Likewise, poor stakeholder engagement is one of the most common reasons why projects fail. When things don’t get done, a project can quickly stop playing ball. Stakeholder management is all about keeping everyone onside, with effective communication, clear actions, monitoring and regular reviews.

The Pelicam databank of project transformation has identified the key roles involved in change and key messages- and problems - regarding stakeholder engagement, based on our real-world experience of delivering more than 200 change initiatives.


First rule: understand the team roles

Sponsor: has authority and accountability for “implementation”. Has sanctioning power over targets.

Agentresponsible for planning and executing the implementation on behalf of a sponsor – prepares the people for the solution.

Designer: defines the components of the solution, has expertise in the area of the solution, prepares the solution for the people

Influencer: doesn’t have responsibility or authority but is able to persuade or influence people’s views about the solution. Often an informal or thought leader.

Target: the people who will have to use the solution and modify behaviour. Everyone can be considered a target initially.

The most crucial is the relationship between the Sponsor and the Agent. The Sponsor needs to keep senior stakeholders onside, while engaging with Targets and removing any roadblocks along the way. Whereas, the Agent is the prime organiser of change, responsible for project planning, governance and reporting.

So, what does poor stakeholder engagement look like?


Extensive Pelicam experience tells us common signs are:

  •      Failure to spot signs of resistance
  •      One-way communication
  •      Poor understanding of the programme’s benefits across the community
  •      Unexpected blockages, late surprises

Root causes

  •      Technology leaders expected to own delivery, but not empowered to transform the business
  •      Functional areas positioned as customers, instead of being part of the accountable team
  •      Programme Manager / Sponsor relationship blurred
  •      Happy day reporting


  •      Stakeholders are supportive – they’ve seen the presentation
  •      Stakeholders won't “jump ship”
  •      Communication by email is adequate
  •      If the boss supports the change, the troops will follow.

And a common second offence (and red card) is a Corporate Black Hole:


Getting colleagues onside (aka Solutions)

The Pelicam tried and tested stakeholder engagement process is far too in-depth and multi-faceted to explain fully here, but it is essential to understand some of the key methodology.


  •     Inspired leadership from the top
  •     Regular engagement with key stakeholders
  •     Realistic mapping of stakeholder support
  •     Great two-way communication

Tools and Techniques

  •     Stakeholder mapping
  •     Resistance checker
  •     Role mapping

We would seek to understand where resistance can present itself and then get all stakeholders and their teams fully involved. So, find out where and why there maybe disillusionment and disengagement festering before you deal with the reasons behind their lack of support.

Of course, stakeholder engagement is an ongoing process and progress should be reported regularly, accurately and honestly. Always gather your own evidence, don’t just take someone’s word for it that their staff are supportive. Many is the time that an assumption of support or contentment is not borne out by experience

Finally, honest and open two-way communication is essential throughout the project and organisation.


Stakeholder Mapping

Great stakeholder engagement doesn’t just happen by chance and just about every project will follow a complex route before arriving at its successful conclusion. That’s why regular monitoring and reviewing is essential. Demand a lot from your stakeholders but understand that stakeholders have the right to be demanding too.

Here is an example stakeholder status map that may be helpful:



Whether you have five stakeholders or 5,000, plotting where their position on the field of play is important to ensure the successful delivery of your change programme. Disillusionment and disengagement can quickly kill a project, so apply football rules to get all the players onside!

Here at Pelicam, we don’t rely on theory and surveys – our approach is defined by our practical experience and knowledge gained from hundreds of successful change programmes. That’s why our clients have learned to have complete confidence in our project assurance and delivery methods.