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How to Manage Multiple Stakeholders on a Program

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Programs are formed by projects with stakeholders from both similar and different backgrounds. Therefore, program managers must be able to work with diverse personalities.

For example, Taiwanese fashion designer Sun Hua Chen wanted to get young people interested in the fashion industry. He saw an exhibition by fashion photographer Su Yi Liang, which spurred the idea that a fashion photography exhibition would be a good way to interest upcoming generations in fashion.

"The Big Shot Charity Photography Exhibition" first held in 2011, will hopefully become an annual event held at the Fubon Cultural & Educational Foundation in Taiwan. The foundation is known for its work in supporting young people.

The end result that first year was 111 designers, photographers and non-profit workers who collaborated to make the exhibition a success. The event raised US$308,200 to support young adults' work in art and design.

But reaching that level of success wasn't easy. For starters, Mr. Chen found it challenging to get the foundation to understand his vision, mainly because of the vast difference between the fashion industry and charity work.

To secure buy-in, he presented a benefits realization plan in a way that the foundation would understand. They translated the potential effect of the fashion event into how much money could be raised, which would in turn benefit the foundation's stakeholders.

The stakeholders also had different concerns based on their interests. On one hand, there were artists and designers seeking perfection and impact. On the other, there were volunteers and professionals seeking efficiency and effectiveness through non-profit.

However, both groups understood that they needed each other's strengths to make the event a success. In this case, that meant utilizing one group's creativity and the other's business sense. It was the eventual synergy of both groups that resulted in the event becoming an annual success.

How have you managed a large, complicated program successfully? Do you have any tips for managing multiple stakeholders?


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To manage multiple stakeholders effectively you really need to understand your stakeholder map. Indirect influence through careful management of your most powerful supporters is by far the most efficient and effective way of removing blockers. The article is right to call out synergy as the most effective way of building agreement but some of the most difficult stakeholder management issues arise because this kind of shared interest does not exist.

Roger, good points. I think at this level when you are trying to gain buy in to an idea/program/strategy people need to be able to sell.

Selling becomes a major skill for project and program people when they are in the business of developing and gaining approval for ideas, whether it be bid and proposal managers or program managers.

My experience is that you need to deal with the individual groups separately initially to understand, develop your plan, then get the disparate group together to hammer out the areas of conflict and seek approval.

I mostly agree with the post. For me managing multiple stakeholders means managing up as well as managing down.

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