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Stakeholder engagement is essential - but we need to do more

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

Faced with a complex challenge for which there are no obvious or simple answers, effective decision makers “dive deep” into that complexity through engagement with stakeholders. In a complex system, this is crucial for understanding what is happening, why and what the effective options for action are. Unfortunately, once they have engaged with stakeholders many decision makers seem to believe that they are as well-placed as they can be to make a decision. This is almost always a mistake.

In human organisations and projects the complexities faced are always influenced by deep intangible factors such as relationships, emotions, assumptions, language, limitations of memory, culture and sensitive issues. Even with the best possible stakeholder dialogue, some of those critical factors will be hidden, misunderstood, misrepresented or manipulated. Listening to, engaging with and collating the views of stakeholders is essential but is not enough to ensure we have a deep understanding of what matters.

Fortunately, no matter how complex the situation and no matter how quickly we have to act, there are practical tools to dig deeper, to see more and to find at least some of those hidden factors noted above. Effective leaders don’t just engage in an open dialogue with stakeholders. They also use diagnostic tools and methods to find underlying patterns and to challenge unseen paradigms and assumptions.

Effective ‘soft systems’ diagnostic tools can represent multiple, interconnected intangible factors in ways that can be seen, understood and tested by stakeholders, in real time. When is the case, the combination of stakeholder dialogue plus soft systems analysis almost always generates unique new insights for all stakeholders and for decision maker(s). This is ‘enriched prior hindsight’ - enabling better decisions to preempt undesirable future outcomes and to lift performance.

Not sure about this? RiskIQ has soft systems thinking methods and tools for use in real time in almost any environment and over any time-scale. Just get in touch.

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