Summary: Berlin, October 1st and 2nd 2015. The European practitioners for modern intranets, social business collaboration and the Digital Workplace gathered in Berlin to exchange on their experience and share insight & learning. As part of the conference I had the opportunity to host a “World Café” session on stakeholder management. This article captures the essence of our discussion.

The framing of the session

I used a little drawing to introduce my personal learning from the past years in the field. From my experience the key layout of stakeholders exists on three levels:

Stakeholder Map

It’s 2015 and the top management (c-level, board room) have bought into the fact that companies have to break up silos. Globalisation is reality and collaboration/communication has to bridge geographical and functional distance. Digital Business Agility (read about this in one of my previous posts) is essential in highly competitive markets.

The people in business operations drive from bottom up. They have a solid understanding on how connectedness and collaboration can improve business success. They are desperate for a more integrated world, improved information management and the ability to work independent from time, place or device – no matter if Generation Y or Silver Surfer.

Squeezed in-between is the middle management. They either get left out in the process from “let’s get connected” to “this is the new connected world” or they are not measured based on the new paradigms. Middle management happens in Excel and PowerPoint, in an abstraction of the real world and represents the “channel” TO the top management. In addition to that it’s a rough world. It’s competitive and not everyone (aka only a very very few) are willing to take risk and accountability for change. They are the ones that we have to really care for. They get caught in politics, games and objective struggles. “What’s in for me” gets more and more important on this particular level in the stakeholder map.

This will become particularly important if our ambition is to further increase the work and business criticality of intranet, Digital Workplace. Then accountability and governance have to be with the middle management. They will be in charge of making it work for the organisation. Therefore we need have to have middle management on board as of day one and make it theirs.

The conversation’s essence

Everyone agreed that more time has to be invested in understanding the real stakeholder map and how they stand with regards to the subject (supporter, promoter, opponent, neutral and/or allies)
Finding the right “value proposition” for the various stakeholder functions is key to get them on board and keep them on along the entire journey.

Executives and top management have to adjust success measurement and KPI to make “connectedness” and “networking of knowledge and people” part of the actual middle management scope of work. The fact that effectiveness will provide competitive edge has to start trumping the “just get it done” attitude.

We have to accept the fact that “business ownership” doesn’t come through a title when it comes to stakeholders for the Digital Workplace. A director is not in the middle of things. Field managers are. They are the ones that primarily seek enablement and support from digital services. We need to have them on board to ensure that “user centricity” is built into the project.

If you have opponents or “disbelievers” in the stakeholder center, get them close to you. Give them a key role, a key stake and the opportunity to shine with the project. Thereby you turn them through pure opportunism…and it’s WIN/WIN.

Pursuing something that has an impact through work criticality will lead to politics. And politics. And politics. Be prepared and don’t expect “yes” to mean “yes” or “I am in” to stand for “I will throw all necessary resource at you”. The future Digital Workplace is cultural and corporate change…and it’s political.

The conversation cards & transcript

We’ve collected a lot of angles on stakeholder management. Below the little moderation wall you can find a (more or less) transcript from the cards collected during the sessions (5 groups attended, approx. 50 participants in total).

World Cafe Wall

A little transcript of the World Cafe Wall

World Cafe Transcript

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