Five Steps To Better Communication With Internal Stakeholders

Posted 06/02/2017

In an earlier blog, I wrote that procurement’s ability to contribute to business success is hugely dependent on the quality of our relationships with internal stakeholders and that, while we cannot directly control how others perceive us, we can strive to improve the quality of our communication so we can work together better.  Ultimately of course, the challenge is finding the time to do this while dealing with the pressing demands of the day job. It’s never easy but it’s undoubtedly worth it in the long run. With this in mind, here are five steps to improving communication by incorporating relatively simple but extremely effective ways of working: 

1. Take a step back and think about your key stakeholders . Who are they, from recent projects and potential future ones? How well do you work together, from your perspective and from theirs? How could that be improved? Who could act as your ambassadors? Who may be undermining you? How can you address this?

2. Establish which are your priority relationships , recognising that with limited time available you won’t be able to focus on everyone to the same degree.

3. Brainstorm ways in which you could build understanding and trust. Depending on how well you currently work together, some ideas might be:

a. Identify what you would like to know from each key stakeholder and actively seek their opinions and points of view – this could be formally (e.g. meetings face to face or by phone) or informally (e.g. in the canteen or by the coffee machine).

b. Ask for feedback on recent projects – find out how suppliers have really been performing, for good and for bad. How can you help?

c. Make a point of following up on feedback – to address issues raised.

d. Conduct short reviews at the end of future projects to see how fully objectives were achieved, how well you worked as a team and what you could do differently to improve in future.

e. Publish stories on the intranet, written jointly with stakeholders, highlighting teamwork, things that worked well, pitfalls to avoid and the achievement of business goals.

f. Ask for slots to make informative and relevant presentations at departmental meetings. Share success stories and mutual challenges faced; seek and respond to ideas and opinions aired.

g. Don’t make it all about work – sharing a joke or talking about common interests shows you value your relationships beyond achieving work related goals.

4. Make a plan to implement your campaign. This make be as simple as aiming for three positive interactions a week, starting small and building to some of your more challenging goals, or it may be a more detailed and ambitious plan depending on circumstances.

5. Put a marker in your diary to review and adjust your plan every couple of weeks. Celebrate your successes and let them build your collective confidence to face into tougher challenges and aim for higher goals. 

This may seem a lot to do, but looked at another way, it is really about recognising the importance of adopting a customer-focussed mind set and consistently applying some practices which bring this to life on a daily basis. 

By proactively investing time to improve communication with our stakeholders, we show them that we genuinely want to understand and respond to their priorities. (Of course, that’s not to say we won’t at times challenge them, or seek to reframe perspectives, so we can explore alternative options!)  It is by working in this cross-functional and assertive way throughout the process that we can ensure appropriate business outcomes are sought and then delivered. Once we are trusted enough to be invited to the table early, we have the opportunity to ensure the selection, and effective management, of commercially compatible suppliers, thereby accelerating the achievement of a wide range of organisational goals. 

If you have a success story to share where you’ve turned a relationship around through better communication, it would be great to hear what you think made the difference in your case. Let us know in the comments below.

Tagged by topic: Business & Stakeholder Engagement , Category Management

  by Kathrine Western

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