The Application of Stakeholder Networking Theory for Strategic Planning in the New Zealand Public Sector
The New Zealand public sector is facing an increasingly pluralistic stakeholder landscape due to a range of political, economic, social, and technological factors, all of which require public sector organisations to develop new ways of understanding and responding to diverse and complex stakeholder needs. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate whether the theory of stakeholder networking can contribute to strategic planning in the public sector, to assist organisations in planning to meet strategic goals and ultimately move toward their strategic direction. A qualitative research approach, known as participatory action research, was adopted. This required strong involvement with the two sample organisations, contributing to the development and application of the stakeholder networking process and also to the findings. Information gathering occurred through a variety of methods including focus groups, team meetings, interviews, document analysis and workshops. A Stakeholder Networking Framework is proposed as an approach for public sector organisations to apply stakeholder networking theory in practice, which takes into account the key issues participants raised during application. Three primary uses of stakeholder networking theory for strategic planning were found, including a means for providing greater clarity to the stakeholder context surrounding strategic issues, identification of potential relationship strategies to meet strategic goals, and assisting with the prioritisation of stakeholders. The Stakeholder Networking Framework has purposefully been developed in a way that is non-prescriptive and flexible, enabling it to be adapted by managers to suit the context specific needs of their organisation during application. Managers can then use the stakeholder network maps as outputs of the process to inform relationship management activities and strategic decision making. This thesis fills a gap in the literature that provides practical research to public sector organisations and managers on how to integrate a stakeholder networking perspective into their strategic planning processes. It addresses common concerns that arise when trying to deliver such objectives in practice, drawing on the practical considerations of organisations' day-to-day realities.