Recent events have made me reflect on how important the stakeholder engagement process is in executing on big plans and strategies.
When creating a strategic roadmap, or way forward, it’s imperative for leaders to engage the right groups of stakeholders, and a cross section of people within each group, to ensure they have taken into account their blindspots – those things outside their scope and vision.
As the mother of two young footballers and a soccer-mad husband (and business partner), the global uprising of football (soccer) fans against the notion of a break-away “European Super League” by the top twelve clubs in Europe, was met with a level of protest and resistance by the ‘common’ football supporter.
This caused a multi-billion dollar project to buckle under the weight of community protest, the dismissal of a number of key club executives, and a vitriolic public response that not even the greatest of spin-doctors could have prepared for.
For non-football fans, this chain of events is akin to the recent Byron Bay Netflix drama (Byron Baes) where a proposed series about influencers in Byron Bay has been met with dogged resistance from the local community as they feel it misrepresents who they actually are and what they stand for.
In both cases, the fallout came from zero consultation with the communities these organisations were hoping to represent.
In the case of the European Super League, the game’s most important group of stakeholders are the fans. The power brokers assumed that ‘fan’ would prefer to watch the biggest clubs on earth battle each week, without any fear of relegation from that league, when in fact, fans value the vulnerability of promotion and relegation, the dream that one day their little Club can play against the biggest clubs in the world.
The leaders of these clubs failed to recognise what were key cultural values of the game of football; community, competition and fairness; and which have made football the most played game on earth.
In both cases, what could have been a good idea in the long-term, was shot out of the water before they could gain traction, because the leaders failed to truly understand the core values of their communities.
There are so many parallels that can be made between these examples and business.
As business leaders look to create new strategic directions for their organisations, they need to spend time in inquiry, understanding the true nature of their organisation; what defines their culture and values; what’s important to their people; and what needs to change; before they charge ahead.
On a practical level, any and all strategic planning processes must start with first visiting your organisation’s purpose and values. The very essence that makes the business successful must be the starting point for all future growth and opportunity. Jim Collins refers to this as “reserving the core” before “stimulating progress”. It also means engaging your fans – your internal teams and external suppliers – in the strategic planning process in ways that make them feel heard, valued and most importantly, represented.