Tip 8: Manage your stakeholders

In the ideal world, everyone involved in a partnership is enthusiastically supporting the partnership and moving it forward. Unfortunately, the world is not always ideal and there will be stakeholders in your alliance who do not like it or like it less than you would like them to. Work these stakeholders to transform them into real supporters for your partnership.

In an alliance, the alliance manager will need to spend a substantial amount of time in his/her own organization to align the stakeholders to the goals and objectives of an alliance and to secure their support to go forward in the execution. Norma Watenpaugh of Phoenix Consulting Group describes on her website a useful matrix that might help you to understand and to manage the task of alignment more effectively.

stakeholder-alignmentThe matrix is a two by two, like the one shown. In this matrix, you can classify the stakeholders based on their behavior and buy-in and you can approach them accordingly.

Champions are the kind of people you would like to have in your alliance. You, as the alliance manager, should be a champion, and so should your executive sponsor. Champions are highly accountable and highly committed. They are moving the partnership forward.

Cheerleaders are great supporters of the partnership, but they have no accountability for its success. You want these people on your team for their positive attitude; they may be able to be transformed into champions by giving them more accountability.

Hostages are somewhat stuck. They don’t believe in the alliance, they have no commitment, but they are still accountable for their job responsibilities in the alliance. They will most likely fulfill their minimum obligations, but they do not take any proactive measures to ensure the success of the overall alliance.

Snipers are the dangerous ones: it might not always be clear who they are. They do not support the alliance and they have no accountability for its success. They might actually even benefit in seeing your alliance fail. Their goals might be in conflict with the goals of the alliance.

Maybe you recognize these people in your own partnerships. By classifying the stakeholders in a matrix like this, you will learn who you need to deal with and how. Hostages and snipers will have priority to be dealt with. Having them look for other assignments might not be the best solution and you may not even be in the position to ask them to do so. A stakeholder that is not supportive will often find its root cause in lack of information; he/she might not understand the alliance and the benefits it will bring to the organization and their role in it. A good approach to a solution is to meet with these unsupportive stakeholders early on and address their concerns. Maybe you can convince them of the value of the partnership and hence move them to one of the other quadrants.

This article is part of a series of articles extending upon the 25 tips for successful partnerships & alliances article.  These 25 tips have been rewritten and published in the eBook “25 tips for successful partnerships & alliances” that can be downloaded for free.

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