The Engagement Orchestra

We all know engaging our project stakeholders is a ‘good thing’, right? However, it is practised far less than it should. There are a number of reasons for this, but in this post, I want to share just one, and it is quite subtle.

We are often deterred when we realise the daunting size of the challenge. The scale of it can be overwhelming. It can’t be done by one person alone.

Consider the challenge faced by one of my clients. They have two key stakeholders. These stakeholders are, in fact, groups of people. One stakeholder is a group of about 1,000 end customers, and the other one is about 100 key operatives who will be using a new technology platform to serve these people. The core project team developing the solution is about 15 people.

Now, any one of those individuals will consider the scale of engagement in terms of what they can personally do. The scale of this can be so intimidating, it is far more comfortable to turn their attention back to what they are familiar with, the technically-urgent tasks in hand.

This can become a sort of collective state of denial by the team of this vital engagement challenge because, without true engagement, this change will fail. It always the case.

[shareable cite=”Patrick Mayfield”]Without people engagement change will always fail.[/shareable]

It is better to approach it a different way.

Let’s use a metaphor. Consider engagement as creating music, maybe the ‘mood music’ to the change. In these sort of large-scale contexts, we need an orchestra. The orchestra will need different instruments to come in on the right beat. Each instrument will add tonal colour to the overall effect as it builds to a climax. The overall effect, the scaled effect, needs to have some structure to it so that the piece does not ‘hit’ the audience as a confused cacophony, but instead leads the listener to a conclusion.

So we need a conductor who rehearses the piece with all members of the orchestra, a conductor who explains their interpretation of the composer’s intent. Maybe the conductor is the project manager, the project sponsor or a business ambassador. They need to “conduct” and coordinate the whole engagement carefully. The whole engagement orchestra takes its cue from that leader.

What is the “score”? A basic “score” that we use to orchestrate such a large-scale engagement is the stakeholder engagement strategy, an approach where every team member sees which part they have to play. This is explained in my book, Practical People Engagement.

How will you play your engagement mood music?

[reminder] Do you have an example, good or bad, of using an engagement strategy.[/reminder]