We are moving from a chain of command to a web of connection, from competition to collaboration, from markets to networks and stockholders to stakeholders, and greed to green.
– Anodea Judith
Author & Evolutionary activist
Leadership speaks to Stakeholder, “Let us stand in the created future that wasn’t going to happen otherwise. A future which would address the core concerns of both of us. Let us take actions and decisions now to realize the future.”
At its essence Leadership remains an exercise in language which motivates all stakeholders to align into taking actions in the present to realise a common future.
I was recently engaged in a hub optimisation project for an orthopaedics implant supplier. It did not take too long for our team to work out the optimum inventory positions of around twenty thousand items as part of fifty kits. We were delighted to note that our recommendations held the potential of reducing the inventory carrying costs at the hubs by up to seventy per cent. The client’s corporate team was equally elated.
I was therefore left disconcerted when a subsequent review revealed near zero implementation of the project recommendations and the associated cost savings. The Marketing team had effectively sabotaged the initiative. While the project criteria had been to ensure a 99% assurance of availability of all ortho kits, Marketing insisted that for its clients nothing below 100% was acceptable.
Looking back one could see that the project failed for its failure to identify ‘customer’ stakeholders like the Ortho surgeons and the hospital administrators and what might their pain points be.
Leadership in the new millennium is more about stakeholding than anything else. Today’s world is becoming increasingly granular. More and more individuals are jumping onto the technology bandwagon and getting networked with unknowable connections amongst them. And each of these ‘unknowable connections’ becomes a stakeholder with its ability to influence perceptions and thoughts.
Per Bak, the Danish Physicist, developed a theory of sand running through an hour glass. He concluded that while the sand pile seemed stable with a regulated sand flow, the pressures on each of the sand grains was constantly changing; the internal dynamics of the sand was complex, unknowable and could not be predicted.
The stakeholding world today is like that sand pile.It seems stable but in reality continues to shift in unknowable ways with instability being the only constant.
So how does one manoeuvre the unknowable, unpredictable quicksands of stakeholding? What can leadership do to ensure effective relational assimilation of all stakeholding concerns? You could make a good start with the following questions.
- Who are your influencing stakeholders? They could be from your investors, your leaders, your staff, your customers, customers of your customers, your suppliers, your community, competitors, consumer groups, social media……. sounds daunting. doesn’t it? Well a good place to start is to observe the conversation networks and the language being used. Use this to discern the contradictions, conflicting ideas and harmonies that form part of the issue.
- Ask of the identified influencing stakeholders about their interests and core concerns
- What is the stakeholders’ critical analysis of the situation? How does the issue occur for them?
- What solution hypotheses could you develop which could take care of the stakeholders’ interests and concerns?