In this article I would like to share with you one of my favourite (and most useful) project management tools – stakeholders’ Power-Interest Grid
A tool which can save a lot of communication trouble in your project and can help you to identify the most difficult stakeholders before they cause you any trouble.
Stakeholders are individuals, groups, and organisations that could impact or be impacted by your project. They are the people you involve in your project, including those for whom you design products and those to whom you communicate and report project activities.
There are many benefits of using a stakeholders-based approach. It facilitates a more effective strategy for dissemination and marketing and opens opportunities for more engagement and support from important stakeholders that can increase the quality and appropriateness of project deliverables.
Stakeholder management is composed of three phases:
- Identify stakeholders
- Prioritise stakeholders
- Plan and manage stakeholder engagement (motivate them!)
The exercises below will bring you, step-by-step, through each stakeholder management phase.
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1. Identify the stakeholders
Choose a current project and identify a list of stakeholders for it. Brainstorming with your project team is the best way to identify all relevant stakeholders, so invite your colleagues to this exercise. Ask the team:
- who could be interested in your project?
- who could be impacted by your project (who is the project target group)?
- who has power to influence your project (project sponsor, project evaluators, grant giver)?
Use a blank piece of a flipchart paper to make a stakeholder map. From old magazines and newspapers, cut photographs that represent identified stakeholders. Paste them on the paper. People and groups who have bigger impact on your projects should be closer to the centre and those who have a minor influence should be pasted on the edges.
2. Prioritise the stakeholders
When you list all stakeholders, think of them in terms of power and the interest they have in your project. Discuss who should be managed closely and who to only keep informed with your team. Who do you have to keep satisfied and who should only be monitored?
Remember that although stakeholders may be both organisations and people, ultimately you must communicate with people. Make sure that you identify the correct individual stakeholders within a stakeholder organisation.
A power-interest grid will help you to do this exercise and to segregate and prioritise the stakeholders. When you put your stakeholders on a power-interest grid, you can determine who has high or low power to affect your project, and who has high or low interest. People with high power need to be kept satisfied, while people with high interest need to be kept informed. When a stakeholder has both, make sure you manage their relationship with the project very closely!
- High power-high interest: these stakeholders are decision makers and have the biggest impact on project success and, hence, you must closely manage their expectations.
- High power-low interest: these are the stakeholder who need to be kept satisfied (even if they are uninterested!) because they yield power. This type of stakeholder should also be dealt with cautiously as they may use their power over the project in an undesirable way if they become dissatisfied.
- Low power-high interest: these people should be kept adequately informed. Talk to them regularly to ensure that no major issues are arising. These people can often be very helpful in your project.
- Low power-low interest: monitor these people, but do not bother them with excessive communication.
3. Plan and manage stakeholder engagement (motivate them!)
Previous exercises allowed you to get insights about your most important stakeholders. Based on this information, you should now be able to make plans about how to manage stakeholder engagement, communication, and motivation.
Now think of the stakeholders as groups, instead of individuals. Brainstorm with your team and answer the following questions, starting with the most powerful and influential stakeholders:
- Communication – How will you communicate with them, how often?
- Engagement – How do you want to get them involved? What would be their role in the project?
- Motivation – What motivates them? What do they need to be satisfied and collaborative?
The plan you have created will help you to monitor stakeholder engagement.
Organise monitoring sessions with your team at each project meeting and at the beginning of a new work package or intellectual output. If new circumstances arise, do not hesitate to adapt the stakeholder plan.
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