The word ‘stakeholder’ sounds close to ‘shareholder’ and sometimes international English speakers may confound the two. This is a pity, because the idea is to provide as broad as possible a view of all the parties that come into contact with the project. Stakeholders have stakes because they either put something in or get something out of the project. And because stakeholders include everyone that comes in touch with the project, they may be either positive or negative towards it.
Some stakeholders dream of putting a stake through the heart of the project and can catch the project unawares. But supporters can also appear in surprising places. Competitors, for example, are considered to be against a project, but they could also benefit the project in many different ways.
This activity provides an approach for doing stakeholder analysis. The end goal is to produce a project communication plan.
The team needs to take charge and manage the politics that swirl around a project. Instead of passively waiting and just hoping that things will turn out for the best, the team has to seize the moment and to become proactive. Analyzing and communicating to stakeholders require skills that are very similar to sales skills. Project people may not themselves be trained in the arts of persuasion, but they can learn to investigate who is for and who is against, as well as how to manage the situation. This activity aims to do just this.
To determine who is for and against a project and their degree of influence.
To determine actions for promoting a positive climate around the project.
To build a communication plan for the project.
Stakeholder management is emerging as an integral and vital part of project management.
A stakeholder is a person, or a group of people, who share a viewpoint and could justifiably receive the same kind of message. The finer the analysis, the closer you get to the individuals.
The ‘stakeholder management plan’ is in fact called the ‘project communication plan’. Communication is said to be 90 per cent of project management: this includes everyday coffee and corridor encounters as well as meetings and formal reporting. Bumping into the boss in the elevator is just as much an opportunity for communication as the monthly project status report. However, once again, the motto is ‘Be prepared’. If everyone just improvised, each team member would probably end up saying different things, and the project would fail the ‘elevator test’.
This activity provides a structured way of assessing which stakeholders are involved, their degrees of favourability and influence towards the project and how these can be constructively aided and managed.
Managing stakeholder expectations is a little like politics. In fact, stakeholder management is basically about organizing the political aspects of the project.
The salesperson for a large information technology company mapped out their stakeholder analysis on the paper tablecloth in a restaurant. They knew who dined with whom, who played golf with whom, who were friends and who were foes. They knew the organization inside out, and better than the staff themselves. They were a specialist salesperson to that organization, a highly-paid professional and on top of their job. They had a communication plan for everyone in the company. Not everyone has the opportunity to focus on one customer in such a way, but it was very effective and worth every cent of their commission.
Draw the matrix from Handout A24.1 on the flipchart with favourability on the horizontal axis and influence on the vertical axis.
Hand out Post-it notes of different colours. Ask the participants to write one stakeholder on each Post-it, big enough to be seen at the back of the room, if possible. The stakeholders can be a department, a company or a group, but it is even better to identify an individual.
Place the Post-its on the matrix according to the stakeholders’ degree of favourability and influence: on the left for low favourability, on the right for high favourability, at the bottom of the chart for low influence and at the top of the chart for high influence.
As a rule, you want to move the unfavourable stakeholders towards greater favourability, or else help favourable stakeholders to become more influential or reduce the influence of unfavourable stakeholders. The participants can use arrows to indicate the shift that they wish to achieve.
5. Select one or two of the stakeholders. Distribute Handout A24.1 and, with the participants, define the what, why, how and when of the communication plan, and produce a timeline showing when the communication will take place.
It is the responsibility of the project manager and the project team to be proactive and endeavour to influence supporters and resisters in a way that can strengthen the project.
For example, if a project manager feels that resources are inadequate for the project, then good project management practice is to manage the situation, try to understand the decision makers’ priorities, make a case for more resources, influence decision makers and not to collapse and lament. In other words, it is the project manager’s responsibility to make sure that the project is equipped with enough resources to achieve the outcomes that have been agreed.
20 to 30 minutes to identify enough stakeholders.
10 to 15 minutes to define a communication plan for one or two stakeholders.
Handout A24.1: Stakeholder analysis example.
Post-it notes of different colours.