stratégies efficaces pour travailler avec les parties prenantes

Effective Strategies for Working with Stakeholders

Working with stakeholders is a complex and delicate exercise. Especially in the case of large-scale infrastructure projects (energy, forestry, transport, etc.), which require you to deal with a large number of highly diverse stakeholders (administrative and regulatory bodies, communities, suppliers, workforce, etc.).  

But these days, no one questions the need to involve stakeholders at every stage of a project’s execution. It is no longer possible to leave them in the dark, or to impose potentially disruptive business activities on them. The very success of projects often depends on managers’ ability to mobilize the influential players affected by their activities.  

The International Association for Public Participation’s (IAP2) “Spectrum of Public Engagement” identifies five levels: inform, consult, involve, collaborate and delegate. However, certain management strategies are particularly effective when it comes to mobilizing stakeholders and integrating them into a project. From stakeholder analysis to the use of agile methods, here’s a range of ways to facilitate exchanges, interactions and collaboration. 

Stakeholder analysis

The first step in any stakeholder engagement plan is to carry out a stakeholder analysis. This involves: 

  • Draw up a list that includes all the people and groups affected by the project and/or likely to influence its progress  
  • Determine each stakeholder’s expectations, needs and concerns  
  • Classify stakeholders according to their degree of interest and influence, then identify the links between them to see whether they serve the project or not  
  • Identify the stakeholders with the greatest interest in, and influence on, the project, then examine the potential risks, problems and misunderstandings that could disrupt the project’s progress or compromise its chances of success. 

The aim of this exercise is to gain an in-depth understanding of stakeholders. Firstly, to develop appropriate mobilization strategies, and secondly, to proactively anticipate and prevent opposition. This demonstrates a willingness to take stakeholders’ realities into account and place them at the heart of the project. A group or individual who feels listened to, respected and understood is more open to discussion and negotiation.   

On the other hand, identifying enthusiastic and influential stakeholders makes it possible to use this influence to broaden support for the project’s objectives.  

Stakeholder analysis should not, however, be a one-off exercise at the start of a project. It needs to be repeated regularly, to reflect the evolution of the project and the changes associated with it – new stakeholders entering the scene, team changes on both sides, etc. – so that no one is left behind. In this way, no one is forgotten or neglected. And the risk of problems and opposition is reduced. 

Building trusting relationships with stakeholders

Building trusting relationships with stakeholders improves collaboration, facilitates decision-making and crisis management, and enables us to capitalize on innovation and sustainability.

Building solid, fruitful relationships with stakeholders requires more than simply informing and consulting them. It means really listening to their concerns, being ready to collaborate with them, and taking their opinions and needs into account when making decisions.  

But building trusting relationships actually involves a whole host of elements that embrace both interpersonal skills and organizational processes. 

In terms of organization

Relationships of trust are built over the long term. They require ongoing commitment, which includes regular action, respect for commitments and the ability to respond effectively to feedback.  

Here are some of the elements that can help build strong relationships. 

  • Values rooted in improving society and encouraging constructive behavior  
  • Implement processes that are both rigorous and fluid, guaranteeing stakeholder satisfaction and compliance with laws and corporate values  
  • Establish clear, regular communication with stakeholders, with messages delivered effectively  
  • Deal promptly with problems, be proactive in the face of risk and flexible in the face of change  
  • Implement harmonized management systems (planning, HR, compliance, etc.) that encourage rigorous practices   
  • Ensure sound, optimally structured governance 

Interpersonal skills

Trusting relationships also depend on key personal skills and values such as openness, transparency, honesty and empathy. Empathy is a minor celebrity among its peers, thanks to its contribution to understanding the issues at stake.


Empathy is most often defined as the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes. By sharing the other person’s perspective and feelings, the empath can feel their emotions and gain a true understanding of their reality. It’s an essential quality that should be valued at every stage of a project and in all its related spheres.  

To develop this skill among its managers, the company can, for example : 

  • Properly inform its teams about stakeholders, their realities and challenges  
  • Offer training and workshops, which may include simulation exercises where participants are asked to adopt the point of view of different stakeholders  
  • Organize sharing meetings where stakeholders recount their personal experiences related to the project  
  • Offer activities to raise awareness of cultural differences  
  • Use tools such as the empathy map, designed to visualize customer feelings in a commercial context, but easily adaptable for stakeholder management. 

Communicating effectively with stakeholders

Proper communication is one of the pillars on which rich, respectful relationships with stakeholders are built.   

As part of a mobilization plan, good communication means providing stakeholders with all the information they need to form an opinion about the project and assess its impact on their daily lives. This means adapting your means of communication to the realities and preferences of groups and individuals, to ensure, first and foremost, that your messages reach their target. And these communications must be clear, concise and complete. 

But communicating isn’t just about giving; it’s also about receiving. Communication between two entities requires expression, but also listening. And listening is paramount in stakeholder relationship management. 

Active listening

Active listening was developed by a psychologist in the 1970s to help patients express their emotions. But the prescriptions associated with it are used today in many fields, including management, counseling, negotiation and conflict resolution. Active listening is recognized for facilitating communication, fostering mutual understanding and respect, and strengthening interpersonal relationships and skills.  

The technique of active listening is based on attention, which must be given entirely to the interlocutor. It involves focusing both on what is being said and how it is being expressed, particularly through non-verbal language. It also requires setting aside one’s own opinions and judgments, and ignoring the environment in order to be fully receptive.    

Some key elements of active listening: 

  • Establish and maintain eye contact that shows interest  
  • Refrain from interrupting, but use gentle signs of encouragement to continue, such as head nods   
  • Rephrase to ensure understanding   
  • Ask questions to improve understanding  
  • Use empathy to capture feelings and emotions  
  • Avoid interruptions, as they break up the communication process  
  • Summarize what has been said as proof of effective listening, both for the speaker and the listener

Resolving conflicts with stakeholders

Working with stakeholders usually brings with it its share of potential conflicts. This possibility is exacerbated when it comes to large-scale projects involving a host of highly diverse stakeholders. And if the project has consequences for the environment and local communities, divergent interests and opinions are likely to inflame tempers.  

These conflicts may arise at different stages of the project, and concern various aspects such as  

  • Environmental impact – destruction of natural habitats, pollution, etc.  
  • Land use – indigenous territories, expropriation, access, etc.  
  • Socio-economic issues – local employment, distribution of benefits, etc.  
  • Compliance with laws and regulations at all levels of government  
  • Values – those of the company diverge from those of the community in which it operates 


The first “method” suggested for conflict management is “anticipation“. It consists in preventing disagreements by detecting the warning signs and establishing a climate of trust. As a result, many of the elements discussed above can help to identify and resolve potential conflicts. Useful measures include : 

  • Se tenir au courant, grâce à des échanges réguliers et de bonnes stratégies de communication, y compris la pratique de l’écoute active 
  • Déterminer à l’avance les sources de conflits potentiels 
  • Demeurer attentif afin de déceler les premiers signes de tension 
  • Miser sur la proactivité et la rapidité d’intervention pour régler des problèmes avant qu’ils ne dégénèrent en vive opposition 
  • Offrir des formations sur la résolution des conflits 
  • Mettre en place une procédure officielle de gestion des conflits 
  • Keep abreast of developments through regular exchanges and good communication strategies, including active listening.  
  • Identify sources of potential conflict in advance  
  • Remain attentive to detect the first signs of tension   
  • Rely on proactivity and rapid intervention to resolve problems before they escalate into heated opposition   
  • Offer conflict resolution training   
  • Implement a formal conflict management procedure 

But it can happen that a disagreement arises without warning, or that a disagreement becomes more serious, for a variety of reasons. Other solutions may then be considered. Negotiation, mediation, arbitration, conciliation, facilitation and consultation are all recognized methods. Many rely on the involvement of third parties and optimal communication. 

Conflict management tools are also available. The Thomas-Kilmann method, for example, enables organizations to assess and adjust their behavior in conflict situations. The DESC method is a communication tool based on four steps: 

  • Describe facts objectively  
  • Express emotions and needs  
  • Specify what is desired   
  • Conclude and state consequences. 

Strategic planning and problem solving

The aim of strategic planning is to define a company’s future direction through specific objectives. It also records the means that will be used to achieve these objectives.  

It generally includes the following tasks: 

  • Assessment of the company’s level of development and a SWOT analysis (strengths – weaknesses – opportunities – threats)  
  • Validation or revision of the company’s values and mission statement  
  • Definition of a vision for the company’s future   
  • Setting precise objectives and priorities  
  • Determining the resources to be deployed at operational level 

Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking, on the other hand, brings together the skills required for this type of exercise, but which can enrich any management context.  

It requires : 

  • A forward-looking approach, with a long-term vision that anticipates trends, changes and challenges  
  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of the company’s business environment, including its relationships with all stakeholders, both internal and external  
  • Mental flexibility to adapt to change and evaluate solutions   
  • A global perspective on the company’s activities and future ambitions  
  • A proactive attitude based on upstream initiatives rather than a reactive attitude based on responses to events. 

Managing stakeholder expectations

Strategic thinking is essential to effectively manage stakeholder expectations. It becomes an additional tool for anticipation. It enables organizations to understand stakeholder needs and align themselves with them through shared objectives. By facilitating adaptation to change, it creates value and fosters good, lasting relationships.  

By integrating strategic thinking into their operations, organizations can ensure they meet and exceed stakeholder expectations, enhancing their reputation, sustainability and success.

Problem-solving skills

Similarly, the skills required to solve problems are also very useful when working with stakeholders. These include: 

  • Communication – the ability to communicate clearly and effectively  
  • Conflict management – the ability to resolve differences while maintaining healthy relationships  
  • Understanding and analyzing events – ability to assess a situation rigorously, from all angles   
  • Information gathering – the ability to collect and analyze the information required for understanding and resolution  
  • Creative thinking – ability to devise innovative and original solutions   
  • Decision-making – ability to choose the best solutions   
  • Evaluating results – the ability to use experience to continuously improve processes 

Any activity aimed at improving these skills among project and community relations managers can therefore serve to facilitate work with stakeholders.

Agile methods for stakeholder management

Agile methodology is a management approach created for software development. But the structural principles and values that characterize it can be applied to many different types of project.   

In particular, agile methods reduce project lead times, which in turn leads to cost reductions. But beyond these obvious benefits, in the field of stakeholder management, agile practices above all enable rapid response to stakeholder requests and concerns: a quality likely to contribute to stakeholder satisfaction and facilitate their mobilization.

Two structural principles

In agile, an iteration (or sprint) is a short, repeated development cycle (between 1 and 4 weeks approximately) during which a team works to complete a part of the project.   

In agility, incrementalism is a principle whereby the product is created and delivered in small, successive parts. Each delivery adds value and functionality to the previous version, until the final result is achieved.   

In stakeholder management, these two principles can inspire teams to define milestones and establish regular evaluation cycles, so they can adjust their management strategies as necessary.   

With regular communications on the progress of the portions of the project affecting a stakeholder or group of stakeholders, this way of doing things enables feedback to be gathered and reacted to rapidly. In this way, 

  • It reduces risk by enabling potential problems to be identified quickly.  
  • It encourages the mobilization of stakeholders, because when they feel involved and listened to, they are more likely to adhere to the project.  
  • It ensures that the company delivers a final result that is acceptable to all.

Fundamental values

Agility is based on values that every organization can adopt in order to maintain good relations with its stakeholders. 

  • It values people and the interactions that drive them. It favors teamwork, open communication and exchanges between people.  
  • It encourages close and continuous collaboration to achieve results that satisfy all parties.  
  • It focuses on functional solutions that bring real value to the project.   
  • It emphasizes adaptation – continuous learning, responsiveness, flexibility – rather than the obligation to follow a rigid framework or plan. In particular, it enables teams to respond effectively to change. 

A mining or wind farm project that implements planning inspired by agile methods may, for example, establish delivery cycles for parts of the project. Each stage leads to a reassessment of the environmental consequences, and involves discussions with stakeholders. In this way, the company can adjust the project in line with feedback from stakeholders and changing regulations. Agile methods enable the company to remain flexible and reactive to changing realities and requirements, while working to complete the project.  

In short, companies and organizations can take multiple avenues to work more easily and effectively with their stakeholders. These options differ in their precise form and aims, but they often converge on a number of levels. A number of precepts can be drawn from them. 

  • To improve understanding and analysis of situations or events → collect data and practice active listening, imbued with empathy.  
  • To create a sense of belonging and demonstrate respect → communicate clearly and regularly.   
  • To minimize the impact of potential problems and conflicts → be proactive through anticipation, and be reactive to sudden incidents.   
  • To navigate through the diversity of stakeholders, their realities, situations, events, etc.→ rely on adaptability and flexibility. 

Regardless of the sector of activity involved, these management strategies are universal and offer different paths to follow to put all the chances of success on your side. 

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