The first step of Stakeholder management is to identify the stakeholders. This can be done through brainstorming, or perhaps out of project context analysis, such as PESTLE analysis (considering the Political, Economic, Social, Technical and Environmental factors affecting the project). Members of the project team are not always considered to be Stakeholders, however it may well be useful to include them, as they do of course have an inpact on the project, both directly and through influence of others.
Once stakeholders have been identified, the second step is to carry out some analysis. Questions to ask include
– What is their level of interest in the project?
– What is their level of potential influence on the project?
– Are they for or against the project?
– Which of the project objectives is most important to them?
Additional knowledge of the stakeholders can also be useful – how have they responded to projects / change in the past? What types of communication do they respond to best?
Some of the information identidied in the second stage can be used to plot the stakeholders on a chart, like this:
[Imagine a 9 box square, with ‘Potential influence on the project’ on the Y axis, low to high, and ‘Interest in the project’ on the X axis, low to high. The boxes are labelled as follows:
top left: high influence, low interest, Passive Supporters or Passive Blockers, Involve/Engage this group
top middle: Involve/Engage this group
top right: high influence, high interest, Active Supporters or Active Blockers, Partner with this group
middle left: Inform this group
middle middle: Consult with this group
middle right: Consult with this group
bottom left: low influence, low interest, Inform this group
bottom middle: Inform this group
bottom right: low influence, high interest, Consult with this group]
Once stakeholders are plotted on this chart you are well on the way to knowing how to involve them in the project. The group with high interest and high influence will make a real difference to your project. If positive they are your ‘Active Supporters’, they will actively benefit the project, and positively influence others. If they are negative they are ‘Active Blockers’, they are likely to cause problems for the project, and negatively influence others. Both of these should be partnered with (in this context ‘Partner’ does not mean a contractual relationship) – they should be closely involved and carefully managed.
Your Passive Supporters and Passive Blockers should be involved and engaged – you want to increase the interest of the positive ones, as if their interest levels increase they will become Active Supporters. You need to be careful with the negative ones, as if something attracts their interest the can quickly become Active blockers.
The other groups should be at least informed, and in some cases consulted with, depending on their levels of interest and influence. Consultation requires some form of 2 way communication, while there are a number of possible communication methods appropriate for the Inform group – this can include a blog, a newsletter, posters, social media and so on.
The information identified in the analysis (step 2) and on the chart (step 3) can be used to create a communication plan (step 4). This will need to include the following:
– Who requires the communication
– When they required the communication
– What information should be included, and to what level of detail
– Who is responsible for creating and supplying the communication
– Where will they get the information from, in order to create this communication (it is important to ensure that the information is available. There is no point in committing to a weekly report to a particular stakeholder if the information required for that report is only available fortnightly)
– What format should the communication be in
The Communication Plan must be approved by the key stakeholders (at least the project sponsor / steering group) before it goes live
Step 5 is to put the plan into action. The stakeholders and the plan need to be monitored throughout the project – the status of stakeholders may change and it is important that the communication plan reflects this, so it should be reviewed at least at the end of each phase, and when a significant project change is made. It is also important to ensure that throughout the life of the project the promised communication is carried out.
Interested in comments.