5 steps to align conflicting stakeholders' views with the corporate intent
We all have seen this play out before: all the department heads or business unit heads agree with the corporate strategy in principle; and all of them voice singularity with the CEO at the strategy retreat. They will certainly not voice their concerns for fear of being labelled "not a team player". Yet, many may secretly harbour reservations, concerns or even resentment that perhaps their idea was passed over for someone else's. They may carry this resentment around with them and while they continue to exhort the virtues of the corporate strategy, they may secretly countermand it through their actions or non-actions. This makes it very difficult for the people charged with making the corporate strategy work. With so many diverse and conflicting stakeholder needs, how do we make the right decision? In this article, I will apply our strategic thinking frame and layout 5 steps that we need to do to work with conflicting strategies.
1. Emphasise the intent
If there is one thing we all agree upon in strategic thinking is the primacy of intent. For whatever we do, we need to be clear of our intent, and accept it. So even if stakeholders secretly disagree with the corporate intent, outwardly they won't. And this must be your starting point. Get them to agree not just with the intent but also the success factors. After all, since they have already agreed with the intent in public, they cannot disagree with you now.
2. Seek out their requirements
Next, ask each of the stakeholders individually, "What would we need to have in the solution that will meet your needs?" This will allow them to voice their concerns without it being so personal. We all know that different BUs and different departments will face different circumstances; hence they will require different things to make the strategy work for them. Get them to voice out all their needs.
3. Rank order them
Some BU heads at this point might seize the opportunity to dump all their requirements at you which might make attaining the corporate intent close to impossible. You cannot accede to all of them. So ask the BU head to rank order the requirements; perhaps identifying the top 3 and assure him/her that you will take care at least of the first one.
4. Include the requirement as a constraint
Convert the top requirement(s) into a decision constraint and put it into your decision map. This will guide you as you develop your strategic options and finally, coming to the right decision to make the corporate strategy a success.
5. Maintain communication with all the stakeholders
Finally, as you converge onto your decision, and you implement the strategy, understanding which parts of your execution will meet which stakeholder's requirements, keep the communication going. Always assure them that their top needs will be met along the execution timeline. It is through this personal high-touch and assurance that you can get a group of executives who seem to be dancing to a different beat to all fall in line and work separately, but together.
So, with a little strategic thinking, we can get a diverse group of stakeholders to endorse your plan of making it happen. It does take some time and effort, but, when it all comes down to it, you would have made the company more cohesive and more effective in making the strategy work. And wouldn't that be something?
Written by Ian Dyason