Understanding Human Services Stakeholders’ Ecosystems

Navigating Internal and External Stakeholders' Interests and Needs in Human Service Organizations

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Stakeholders are ecosystems comprised of individuals and systems outlying internal, external and interfacing global and local markets.  Formidable and highly integrated, these ecosystems are complex and simple; large and small; with purpose to further its interests to accomplish its agenda (Ihrig and MacMIllan, 2017).  Knowing the users, project organizers and designers, board of directors, and clients are as vital as knowing the naysayers.  With the internet and social media generating success and obliterating personalities and products without serious consequences, the strength of stakeholders compels instant attention (Ihrig and MacMillan, 2017; Barnett, 2011; Bush-Mecenas, S., Marsh, J. A., Montes de Oca, D., & Hough, H., 2018; and Maxey and Kezar, 2015).   Accountability and competence involve understanding their importunate requirements.  Be competent at telling what the expectations and needs are.  Identifying the stakeholders and outline how they interface and what are their challenges. 

All stakeholders are valuable however their perspectives for project implementation may not hold the same value.  This is not to minimize their level of value and the need to hear their opinions.  Rather understanding their perspectives aids support provision.  Keep in mind that the weight, importance and value of stakeholders change over time (Ihrig and MacMillan, 2017; Barnett, 2011; Bush-Mecenas, S., Marsh, J. A., Montes de Oca, D., & Hough, H., 2018; and Maxey and Kezar, 2015).  Need satisfaction varies and they may or may not be fulfilled by the service or product.  When this occurs, the leadership team must be prepared to fully explain the reason for not addressing what they perceive as a lack of attention to their pressing need.  Not moving in the direction of this stakeholder’s need does not mean it can not be revisited.  The priorities of the service and product is broader and inclusive of a wider organization.

Understanding stakeholders’ perspectives requires the organizational team to utilize a consumption chain model comprised of four levels: cognizance, sustainability, analysis and management.  How stakeholders’ needs are satisfied is contradictory to the organization’s unit and processes.  For instance, an external stakeholder returns to the store to return a product they no longer desire does not resort to a company’s failure of satisfying the customer.  Before drawing a conclusion, the company representative must engage the customer to find out their perspective regarding the returned product.  It may turn out that the reason has nothing to do with the product.  Non-negotiables, differentiators, and dissatisfies are categories teams use to identify varying degrees of stakeholders’ perspectives.  Non-profit organizations can use the consumption chain model to gather information about the perspectives of clients, board of directors and employees (Ihrig and MacMillan, 2017; Barnett, 2011; Bush-Mecenas, S., Marsh, J. A., Montes de Oca, D., & Hough, H., 2018; and Maxey and Kezar, 2015). 

Dissatisfiers should be allowed to voice their displeasure and leadership’s capacity to explain may be willing to accept leadership’s explanation.  Non-negotiables entail products or services that harm individuals, create mistrust and mislead internal or external stakeholders.  Differentiators are products or services that cause the ecosystem to buy-in.   Once offer profiles are attained create opportunities for growth profiles by identifying a differentiator through the consumption chain created by the project manager.  Erasing a dissatisfier ensures competitors will emerge.  Whatever improvements can be established should be viewed as innovative tools that promote growth (Ihrig and MacMillan, 2017).

Get a clearer understanding of stakeholder perspectives by charting their dissatisfactions.  This alleviates what leadership perceives to be problematic to stakeholders’ perspectives.  The team may find out that what they considered a challenge is a non-issue or what the team considers a non-issue is an obstacle (Barnett, 2011; Jones, T.M., Harrison, J.S. and Felps, W., 2018; and Maxey and Kezar, 2015). 

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