Stakeholders: “The people, groups, or organizations who affect or are affected by a solution”
In terms of importance to the success of an endeavor, there can scarcely be a more significant set of people than your stakeholders - the people who justify, fund and use the system; those who will derive value (or not). Without stakeholders, there is no point in the system. No matter how great the team, they only exist because of the stakeholders.
But we still see teams struggle to manage them well. This isn’t helped by some of the methods we use. Even where stakeholders are mentioned, they aren’t always given center stage and their interests get conflated with other elements such as requirements, the solution or the end users.
While Agile rightly guides us to measure progress by working software, it’s common to see teams focus more on the ‘software’ word – is there a working build – than on the ‘working’ word – is the software doing the job that it needs to do. You can’t confirm that by looking at a build pipeline. You need the stakeholders to tell you, or better still show you.
In the Essence kernel, stakeholders is one of the 7 alphas. Like all alphas, it has its own independent states that require focus and attention from teams to advance them. While attention on other aspects of the solution may also help advance Stakeholder states, there are often some specific things teams ought to do to ensure their stakeholders are satisfied.
This clean focus can be very useful to help teams see the stakeholder impact of their work and retain a focus on the reason the solution is being built in the first place.
One simple way to do this is to review the states of the Stakeholders alpha regularly – perhaps every few months or if a stakeholder changes. Get the team together and go through the states one by one, always starting with the first state – Recognized.
This may seem odd. If we have previously got through to a higher state, why bother checking the first state again?
However, consider the impact if that state has changed? What if our stakeholder groups have changed? What if there is a new stakeholder we haven’t engaged with? Or what if our expectations of their responsibilities have changed – perhaps we need more time for user testing? Have we agreed this with them all?
Often, the checking of previously achieved states will be quick to confirm, but it is important to be honest and thorough – be aware of any assumptions you are making and be sure to test them. The impact of changes in your stakeholder states could be huge, so the earlier you spot them the better. Using TeamSpace™ makes it easy to see the checklists for each state, including any local customizations your team or organization has made.
Of course, you also want to confirm the current state and test whether you have reached the next state. This is also a good time to revisit the checklists that apply to each state and consider whether they should be changed? For example, as your stakeholders begin using the system, you may wish to add additional checklists to the ‘Satisfied for Deployment’ or ‘Satisfied in Use’ states.
Including a Stakeholder State Check into your regular events will improve your stakeholder relationships, provide additional opportunities to engage with your stakeholders and increase your confidence that your endeavor will deliver the value your stakeholders expect.
You can download all 7 Alpha State Cards from the Coaching Hub.
This is just one, very small (but very valuable) use case of Essence - there are many, many more. If using the Stakeholder cards gives you a taste for the power of Essence, you can find out about some of the other Use Cases on the Essence in Practice Website or get in touch with us.
Photo image courtesy of Airfocus, free to use under the Unsplash License