Stakeholder interviews allow you to ask powerful questions to business leaders to define future vision and drive success.
When starting a new project, clearly articulated purpose and goals allow the delivery team to focus on success. Stakeholder interviews surface the primary needs of the business and collect unique insights to inform a single vision. These interviews can be just as helpful for stakeholders as they are for you, providing the structure needed to articulate a clear vision. Done regularly, they can help to capture directional changes, identify risks and ensure smooth, focussed delivery.
Stakeholders are people who have an investment in an initiative. In this case, we’ll be talking about business stakeholders - people invested in the success of an organisation. The proportion of investment across stakeholders, whether financial, professional or emotional will directly impact the influence in business decisions: the larger the investment, the larger the influence.
When selecting stakeholders for an interview, choose those people who have the biggest influence on the success of your initiative. Consider people who control the budgets, makes calls on investment or have valuable experience.
These people are often difficult to get hold of and even harder to get an hour of dedicated time with so be direct and purposeful with your communication. A phone call or face-to-face will allow you to get the attention you need to explain your intentions and avoid communication being lost in emails or messaging systems.
Before defining your interview questions, outline your goals. Consider what you want to gain, what you’d like to understand further and what your ideal outcomes would be. From these, you can design the right questions to reach your goals.
Creating an interview script with your questions will ensure consistency between interviews and reduce bias. Time with stakeholders is precious so questions should be direct, clear and intentional. Sharing the topics or themes prior to the interview will allow you to make the most out of your limited time together.
Here are some examples of questions we asked as we started a recent partner project.
Stakeholder interviews can be ran face-to-face or remotely. By keeping attendees to a minimum (you and the interviewee), you will create a more comfortable environment where your interviewee can speak openly and honestly about their thoughts, increasing the quality of insights.
Start by thanking the stakeholder for their time. Explain the purpose of the interview and how you plan to use the insights to benefit the project.
Listen intently to what the interviewee is saying and pay attention to how they are saying it. The emotion behind a response is often even more valuable than the words that are spoken and often the driving force behind behaviours, relationships and business decisions.
To allow yourself to analyse behaviours further, you can ask the participant if they’re happy to record the session for your personal use before you get started. This will also remove the need to take notes during the session or have a third person involved.
Finish the interview with a debrief of the session. Repeat the purpose of the interviews and reiterate the value of their input. Explain how you will proceed from here and ask if they have any questions you can answer before finishing up. Thank them for their time and get ready to analyse the results.
Once you’ve finished the interviews, you can watch back the interviews and start gathering insights. A simple table with the interview questions on one axis and participants on the other will give you a structure to collate and compare insights. Working through one question at a time, note any emerging themes and highlight any conflicts. This will allow you to iron out any conflicts between the stakeholders and propose a single vision for the project.
A united vision will help the team to stay focussed and motivated. It will provide a greater sense of purpose and ambition, allow for more ownership and autonomy and increase the chances of reaching success inline with business aspirations.
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