How to Gather Input Quickly from Multiple Stakeholders

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When your project or work environment relies on stakeholders to get work done, you need a structure and process to enable productive collaboration. It's not as simple as setting an agenda and inviting stakeholders to help. Given the trend of hybrid work, you need to consider the most effective and efficient ways to gather input, regardless of how participants show up and the quality of the engagement experience you're giving them. This blog shares a case study, hints and tips on how to gather input quickly from multiple stakeholders and free downloads to get you started.

How to gather input quickly from multiple stakeholders

Organizations rely on internal and external stakeholders to achieve their goals but the trend toward hybrid work adds complexity to the process.

When asked, most people are willing to lend a hand, but no one likes to have their time wasted or to spend unnecessary time in meetings.

If you're under pressure and wondering how to gather input quickly from multiple stakeholders, use these six tips to engage stakeholders effectively and efficiently so you can move faster towards results, build strong relationships and make the process of collaboration and informed decision-making easy and enjoyable. And check out the case study to learn more. 

Six tips to get stakeholder input

1. Set the agenda last 

Soon as they know they have to engage stakeholders, most people dive right into planning an agenda. Sure you have to nail down a date and time, but you shouldn't be committing to an agenda until you've sorted out a few things. See tips 2, 3 and 4.

Hint: Set a placeholder in your stakeholder's agenda and share why you need them involved, then tell them more details will soon follow.

2. Clarify meeting goals and outcomes

We collaborate with stakeholders to produce or create something. My favourite questions for clarifying meeting goals and outcomes are:

  • What are you solving for?
  • What do you want to get as a result of this effort?
  • How will you know the engagement was a success?

Hint: Organize your workshop around a challenge to resolve and be clear on what outcomes you're driving for. Communicate your goals and outcomes to your stakeholders when you invite them.

3. Use an experienced group facilitator

Engaging stakeholders in post-pandemic times adds complexity to the process. You will likely have some participants joining in person and others virtually.  An experienced group facilitator will help you plan, design and deliver your workshops to streamline and create efficiencies in how you engage stakeholders, maximize in-person and virtual participation, and will ensure you achieve your outcomes.

Hint: Find a facilitator that has experience in designing for both in person and virtual delivery and who knows how to guide the engagement process and can integrate a variety of digital facilitation tools.

4. Design to make collaboration easy and enjoyable 

Productive collaboration needs structure and process to get the most out of teamwork. Using Creative Problem Solving to design your collaboration gives you a flexible structure and process with norms for behaviour to guide stakeholder engagement and creates the psychological safety necessary for effective collaboration.  

Hint: Remember to design your session with the end in mind. Be sure to consider how you will capture and report on the results of the engagement as you design your sessions. 

5. Prepare stakeholders for success

To get everyone's best thinking, stakeholders need to be well-prepared before they show up to your session. They need to know why you're engaging them, what's expected of them, and how you'll work together. A pre-workshop information package can help. Send the package 5 - 7 business days before your engagement, to address the who, what, where, when, why and how questions.

Hint: Make sure you include a basic agenda with timing and logistics and share contextual information so they understand the situation at hand. You can even task the stakeholders with reviewing some documentation or give them a few questions to start pondering. 

6. Capture lessons learned

Engaging stakeholders is something you can always improve on. Make sure you're taking time at the end of every session to ask participants for feedback on what worked well, what you should do differently and what they learned or relearned in the process of working with you. 

Hint: Be sure to capture feedback without judgment, welcoming all ideas. Get participants to brainstorm and record their answers to the feedback questions before you discuss them. Ask questions to clarify answers, never to justify what you did or didn't do. 

 

Download our Lessons Learned Engagement Tool

A Case Study:

The Challenge

Executive leaders representing the aerospace and aviation industry, as well as representatives from government and academia, were gathering to create momentum and a potential strategy for positioning their city as an aerospace hub. The client had a pretty good idea of what they wanted to do: run a day-long workshop to build a vision and strategy for moving forward. They had thirty stakeholders committed to attending the gathering; they even had a draft agenda. What they didn’t have was a meeting facilitator. Their challenge was how to gather input quickly from multiple stakeholders, and how to document the highlights so that everyone’s contributions could help shape a collaborative strategic plan.

The organizers knew they didn’t want a typical engagement; this wasn’t about consulting people to simply gain consensus, nor was it about scratching the surface of the issues so they could check off a box and claim they had “consulted” stakeholders. This was about involving stakeholders fully in open and forthright dialogue to get a diversity of viewpoints, expertise and ideas, and to advance the thinking on what it would really take to bring this aerospace hub to life.

The client wanted to use a digital facilitation technology called Stormz. Used by skilled facilitators, Stormz breaks free from the top-down format of traditional meetings. Suitable to both small and large engagements, Stormz enables collaborative work phases where everyone has instant access to the inputs of all others in the room. Instead of Post-it Notes™ and flipcharts, participants a digital flipchart through laptops and iPads connected to the Stormz app. 

Given we're Certified Stormz facilitators, the client asked us to design and facilitate a stakeholder engagement that would set direction, establish the opportunities and challenges associated with creating the Aerospace Hub in their city, and identify strategies and key action steps. They needed this activity to take place within the context of an already booked meeting of only 4.5 hours in length.

And so we set about designing a solution that would allow the client to gather input quickly from multiple stakeholders.

Our Solution

Organizations engage stakeholders along a continuum of activities to achieve their goals. Critical to effective stakeholder engagement is understanding the stakeholder’s role in a multi-phased process of thinking that moves towards a specific outcome or product. Engagement happens within a context and for a specific reason.

In this case, the client’s outcome was a strategy. Stakeholders are not responsible for building the end product of an engagement; they’re responsible for contributing the thinking, and the problem owner will decide how to use their contributions. So, a critical part of our solution for the client was to establish the roles and responsibilities in the engagement process.

After a review of the target outcomes, proposed agenda, purpose and objectives of the session, we realized that the client had packed their agenda so tightly that they focused on topics and things to cover, rather than the kinds of thinking and dialogue needed to best achieve the desired results. We suggested we could help them achieve their outcome much more efficiently and effectively if they would allow us to take a different approach. 

This is a common occurrence: clients often think the more they can jam into the meeting, the better the consultation. It’s not the case at all. Productive dialogue needs space to happen. Our approach is “less is more” and “simpler is better.” We look at these engagements through the lens of the participants’ experience as well as the intended outcomes.

We proposed that the engagement be framed as an opportunity that needed creative problem solving. The stakeholders were the problem solvers who would contribute their creative thinking. We established one member of the guiding team as the authority for decision-making in the session, so that all participants would have clarity on their role as contributors and would understand how decisions would be made.

The problem statement for the engagement was: How might we strategically establish this city as an aerospace manufacturing centre or hub?

We then worked through a six-step collaborative process with the client. The process involved:

  1. Clarifying meeting purpose and outcomes
  2. Developing a new workshop design
  3. Reviewing the new meeting design and improving it with the client leads
  4. Converting the meeting design to a Stormz digital format, reviewing and improving it with the client leads
  5. Delivering the workshop with our facilitators
  6. Generating the Workshop Results Report

ow to Gather Input Quickly from Multiple Stakeholders

The final workshop design had participants work through five phases, each designed to stimulate the contribution of specific data points. These data points would be used by our client to draw conclusions and make decisions, and complete various components of the strategic plan.

In work phase 1, stakeholders provided structured feedback on the idea of establishing an aerospace hub. This was a fully participatory, 360 analysis of the idea that:

  • Brought clarity to the value and benefits stakeholders recognized in the hub
  • Highlighted issues and concerns they anticipated with the idea
  • Elicited their suggestions for overcoming the issues and concerns so that the project could move forward.

In the second work phase, stakeholders were asked to contribute ideas on the vision for the hub. They did this by brainstorming two sides of the coin: good things they’d like to see happen and terrible things they’d like to avoid. The result of asking for polarized data was a picture of wishes that helped to describe what stakeholders wanted the hub to be and a heads-up on the concerns that would need to be overcome—good input for objectives and tactics in the planning process.

In work phase 3, stakeholders were randomly assigned to new work groups so that a further diversity of opinions could be leveraged. The focus here was to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for establishing the hub. The results were deep insights into the how the city’s history as a blue collar “steel town” could impact the initiative and a long list of pluses about the area. An analysis activity challenged participants to look at results in two components of the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). By focusing on strengths that could be used to leverage opportunities, stakeholders were able to make recommendations to our client, which were then prioritized for relevance and importance to moving forward.

In the fourth work phase, participants recommended priorities and plotted them along a five-year timeline based on complexity. This resulted in our client getting a preliminary sequencing of events to consider as they built the strategy and a better sense of the complexity of issues that would need to be dealt with as they moved forward.

In the final work phase, we asked participants to have some fun and reflect on their experience and the progress made during the day.  Here they used the iPads to take selfies of their teams and share comments with the organizers about their engagement experience.

The Results

We met the client’s objectives for the session and exceeded the desired outcomes. As an added bonus, we helped them gain the enthusiasm, trust and commitment of stakeholders in the process. Because of the way we had the stakeholders interacting with our Stormz digital facilitation tool, we were able to deliver a Results Report immediately after the session. 

As a result of the session, stakeholders recommended that our client shift the focus from establishing an aerospace manufacturing centre or hub to a focus on a broader economic impact.  They wanted the city to become a world-class aerospace manufacturing and aviation hub. They recognized great opportunities for vertical market integration. Not only did they validate the economic benefits our clients anticipated, they brought to light issues and concerns that needed attention. And when asked how to overcome these issues, they offered ideas beyond those our client had already come up with and were able to provide guidance to our client on how to prioritize strategic actions such as talent development, leveraging partnerships, and attracting businesses to the city.

Here’s what stakeholders had to say about their experience:

 

“We have the resources to implement the technology advancement centre that will drive technology adoption.”

 


“This event has been inspirational. We are excited to see the enthusiasm for helping to make our aerospace industry more successful and prosperous.”

“There was an authentic willingness to collaborate together!”

 

Need help planning a stakeholder engagement meeting? An executive retreat, all-staff, a town hall, or community meeting?

 

Schedule a consultation call 

About BridgePoint Effect

BridgePoint Effect is a boutique consulting firm with a bold vision to transform the way leaders and their teams collaborate, innovate, and deliver outstanding results.

We empower leaders to unlock their team's brilliance and creativity through effective collaboration so they can achieve more. 

We offer a framework, practical toolkit and high calibre coaching that gives you the structure, skills and support needed to build an effective team.

For your strategic team, stakeholder and community engagement events, we design and facilitate deliberately creative, efficient, and highly effective in-person and virtual meetings to make collaboration and informed decision-making easy and enjoyable. 

Book a discovery call to find out how. 

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