Stakeholder Management in a matrix organization

I have recently had the pleasure of conducting a major stakeholder mapping and planning exercise in a three dimensional matrix organization:

  • The first dimension is a customer group oriented business unit structure. This dimension is the key go to market and reporting line of the organization.
  • The second dimension is product based, with each of the production units belonging to a product group, and producing a limited number of products.
  • The third dimension is the country dimension.

Obviously, for any development or change program with an organization wide scope, this means a huge number of stakeholders to manage.

The traditional stakeholder management approach would be to map stakeholders, analyse their influence, level of engagement and desired state – and the based of that to develop an integrated management plan. However, in a multidimensional organization, this approach would be almost impossible given the level of complexity and the requirements in terms of time and resources.

So what to do?

My take on it is based on three components

  1. Set goals for required enablement and involvement at group level: Stakeholders are individuals, but seen from a project implementation point of view, they will categorize into one or more groups that – ideally – fulfill a certain role in the project. Therefore, it makes sense to reduce the complexity by setting specific goals for each stakeholder group. For instance, a goal for the process owners could be to” provide timely input and feedback to enable the project to develop and verify to be processes”
  2. Distributed ownership: No one person – not even the program manager – can manage all stakeholders single handedly. On the other hand, even if it would be possible to centralize stakeholder management, would it be feasible? Clearly, for executive stakeholders it is, but beyond that, it is much better to engage all key members of the project team – and even more important – sponsors and a network of change agents in the receiving organization – in managing individual stakeholders. Therefore, the goals set for each stakeholder group should be communicated and regularly followed up via delegation of accountability for stakeholder management.
  3. Event driven communication: Too many projects define their communication plans as if they are the only communicators around. They plan their own town hall meetings, webcasts, workshops and newsletters – rather than taking advantage of fora already present in the organization. By doing this they create communication overload and conflicting priorities. Although some activities need to be planned and delivered exclusively by the project, it is often more efficient to take advantage of existing meetings and foras than to arrange your own – in particular from a stakeholder management perspective.

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