It is a well-known saying that “the spectator sees most of the game”. This is especially true in the area of stakeholder management for projects.
And who can therefore act as the spectator in projects, and help the project manager and the project management team deal with the broader picture? The PMO of course!
This note aims to present an approach to stakeholder management that is applicable to all sizes of project or program. Only the time, effort and detail will vary depending on the importance and complexity of the project.
2. Basic Concept
One point often overlooked in stakeholder analysis tools is the fact that most projects are perceived by many stakeholders to present both threats and opportunities simultaneously. These two opposing forces do not “cancel out”, and can lead to unstable situations, for example when a powerful stakeholder vacillates between hope and fear.
It is quite easy to list this information in a table, but displaying it for visual analysis is less obvious, but very valuable.
3. Identifying Stakeholders
The starting position is of course to ask yourself: who (or what) could impact or be impacted by the project – that is to say by its implementation or by its outcome. In the case where the “stakeholder” is an organization (e.g. a regulatory body), it can be worthwhile to prepare a sub-analysis focussed on that organization.
Conversely, it is important also to identify factors (such as social ties) that could create interactions between individual stakeholders, because they could then act as a group in addition to acting as individuals.
Once the stakeholders or sets of stakeholders are identified, they should be documented with all available information, as well as with any assumptions, for later cross-checking. The possible categories of information in a “stakeholder register” include
- identifier ( it can be preferable to keep name confidential!)
- role in the organization
- role in the project
- professional objectives
- personal objectives
- level of relevant knowledge
- past involvement in similar situations
- power in the organization
- ability to affect the project
- interest in the project
- links to other stakeholders
- information or pointer related to risk management (e.g. risk appetite)
They can then be analysed as explained next.
4. Analysis: the Stakeholder Grid
The possibly unusual feature of this stakeholder grid is that the stakeholder perception of gain is considered to be totally independent of his perception of loss. For this reason, they are mapped onto two orthogonal axes, so that the two values can be used independently.
Other features that are important in the analysis are:
- the potential power or interest the stakeholder could exert on the project
- the stakeholder’s level of interest in the project
- on the diagram below, the two characteristics (power and interest) have been combined into a single value of “influence” to make diagramming simpler. In the later “action planning” phase, the two characteristics should be addressed separately again.
- the evolution of the stakeholder’s position over time
A typical example is shown in Figure 1 below:
5. Action Planning
There are two major categories of action:
- directed actions
- operational actions
Directed actions aim to change the situation, whereas operational actions aim to keep the situation running as analysed.
5.1 Directed actions
These actions are based on the identified need for change. The goal can be any of the following
- to move a stakeholder in a given direction, such as
- from undecided to ally
- from opponent to indifferent if “ally” is not yet possible
- to raise the influence of a stakeholder by increasing their level of interest
- normally for an ally of course
- to counteract the power of an opponent
- to win over an undecided stakeholders by either
- addressing the perceived threats
- enhancing the perception of opportunity.
Once the situation is satisfactory, ongoing actions are required to maintain it. These are the operational actions.
5.2 Operational actions
Operational actions are closely linked to effective communication:
- regular, open, timely, focussed communications
- reporting at milestones or in case of unplanned events
- frequent reassessment of the set and mood of the stakeholders.
All of this process should be integrated with the other major processes such as threat, opportunity and issue management. Procurement obviously brings in additional stakeholders, so the stakeholder analysis should therefore be included in the supplier selection step – before any commitment is made!
You should always bear in mind that the performing organization in general, and the project team in particular, are stakeholders, so you should link the human resource management actions to stakeholder management.
The whole stakeholder management cycle should be iterated regularly in addition to being carried out at the start of any new project phase as well as at any exceptional event. Project closure presents its own opportunities and threats to and from stakeholders and should be carefully managed.
Stakeholder management is a key determinant to the success of a project; so never forget, as Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in Huis Clos “l’enfer, c’est les autres.”