A key aspect of project management is effective stakeholder management. Stakeholders can influence projects in many ways, both positively and negatively, and need to be actively managed. Risk management and subsequent mitigation is to some degree reliant on effective stakeholder management. Over the years I have evolved my own 5 step model for managing stakeholders which I am going to share in today’s post.
Below is the 5 step model I use on my projects.
Step 1 – Create the Organisational Breakdown Structure (OBS)
An OBS is a diagram, usually in the form of a tree structure, of the stakeholder organisation created in excel. Where projects span multiple departments and organisations I generate an OBS for each group. Each stakeholder is added along with their job title in the correct part of the hierarchical structure (see below). I sometimes will colour code users if they are on project boards or part of the day to day delivery or are significant in some other way. One of the benefits of this approach is that it often uncovers stakeholders I may have not considered. If I am aware of the position in the organisation of my stakeholders I can then consider the most appropriate management mechanism to deal with them.
Step 2 – Categorise your stakeholders
Once I have found my stakeholders I categorise them into one of three groups: immediate circle (direct involvement), observational circle (indirect involvement) and the community circle (interest/regulatory). The second tab of my stakeholder spread sheet is this list of stakeholders.
Step 3 – Understand Power and Impact of Stakeholders
Step 3 and tab 3 of the stakeholder spread sheet is an assessment of the power and interest of those stakeholders I identified in step 1. I try not to over complicate this stage as categorisation is often subjective (and sometimes sensitive). I categorise the users as either having High or Low Power and High or Low Interest.
Step 4 – Complete Power Interest Grid
Once I have considered the power and interest of my stakeholders I can place them in the one of the quadrants in the power interest grid above. A high interest high power user would be placed in the top right hand quadrant and managed closely as they have the potential to significantly impact the project. A low power and low interest user would fit in the bottom left hand quadrant and monitored. One thing I am always conscious of is that stakeholder’s power and interest may change as you move through the project. With this in mind I will, on a weekly basis, review the power and interest of identified stakeholders and make my management decisions based on the current project context.
Step 5 – Complete Stakeholder management and communication plan
Once steps 1-4 are complete I then complete the fifth and final tab of the stakeholder analysis, the stakeholder plan.
The first column contains the stakeholder name and job title. The second column “communications approach” is taken from the PI quadrant and will be Manage Closely, Keep Satisfied, Keep Informed or Monitor. Key interests and issues allows me to record specific information about the stakeholder. Current status is either: advocate, supporter, neutral or blocker. These are terms I use but you could use anything that suited your way of working. Desired support uses the same statuses of advocate, supporter, neutral or blocker but detail where you want the stakeholder to be. Desired project role is a column I use to record how I want to involve me stakeholders. This often works well with those stakeholders that are neutral or a blocker; if I involve them in the project I have better visibility any problems. It’s better to have critics involved rather than sitting them on the side line outside the project potentially impacting the project by their actions. Actions desired is a column I use to record any stakeholder\risk management activity I have set e.g. I may need the sponsor to call his equivalent in the supplier organisation or get a business lead to communicate to the business teams.
Messages needed is a column where I can record what information I, as project manager, need to communicate to my stakeholders to manage them. This could be around key financial information, deadlines, impact on business teams or any other project related event. I also consider events external to my project that could impact my stakeholders and communicate about them accordingly.
Finally action and communication records how and when I am going to communicate with my stakeholders to support my desired management strategy. It may be a weekly update, weekly call, an article on the portal or any other type of communication that is deemed appropriate to deliver the required message. I also like to rely to a degree on informal communication and not fall into the trap of making this an open loop process. Where possible elicit feedback by personally contacting key stakeholders , I have found that this lets you test how you have categorised a stakeholder and that you are not managing based on incorrect assumptions.
I hope you have found this useful, please let me know how you manage your stakeholders. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of my approach – would it work in the contexts you deliver your projects?