Stakeholder management and alignment is difficult for most organizations, due to the prevalence of global and cross-cultural teams, and because most organizations are set up in a matrix structure, according to Ryan Bednar, CPSM, head of strategic sourcing, power grids division, ABB Inc.

During his presentation, “Stakeholder Engagement and Alignment,” at ISM2018 last month in Nashville, Tennessee, Bednar indicated that these common characteristics often lead to a variety of challenges:

The disbursement of team members can make it hard to arrange meeting times. Also, while physical separation is not usually a big deal by most workers, “you don’t have the chance to make those informal conversations by the water cooler,” Bednar said.

Language barriers and translation difficulties can result in lack of communication and trust.

Misalignment can occur between business and operational managers.

Consider these 10 ways to improve engagement and alignment in your organization, said Bednar:

1) Strive to have more and frequent short informal conversations with counterparts.

2) Give and take on meeting times; balance meeting times so that others are not always inconvenienced.

3) Don’t fall into the “email trap.” Pick up the phone and call, rather than sending a multitude of emails back and forth.

4) Place a value, not just a cost, on face-to-face meetings.

5) Make an effort to understand cultural differences — and cultural stereotypes. Remember that everyone is an individual and not necessarily bound by those differences or stereotypes.

6) Find out what “yes” means. When a global team member or stakeholder answers “yes,” does it mean “yes, I agree” or “yes, I understand what you’re saying?” You may have to ask follow-up questions or ask the question in another way to determine how your counterpart is answering.

7) Facilitate a discussion about where misalignment exists among the business and operational managers.

8) Take a balanced scorecard approach to how to each measure.

9) Learn about your stakeholders and what they do. “If you’re working with engineers, you need to understand what they do,” said Bednar.

10) Know your audience.

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