Anticipate Conversations: Your Stakeholder Management Map

Stakeholder management is an important topic for project managers executives alike.

This post identifies several ways handling stakeholder relationships. It emphasizes an “introspective” approach, with up-front planning for engagement with various levels of stakeholders throughout an initiative’s life cycle. It also looks at stakeholder management from the point of view of the strategy and project management functions.

The Usefulness of a Stakeholder Management Map

Stakeholder engagement bullseye map

When I think of stakeholders, I the conceptual framework of a target. A select few stakeholders fall right in the middle, while others are further and further away from the center, with more peripheral interests in the project or initiative.

Here’s how I see it, referring to the concentric circles image at right:

  • Stakeholder Type ‘A’ – These are the targeted few who are most important. When you think of who you need to engage with the most, this group is the bulls eye. They will probably make up < 20% of your stakeholders – maybe even much less.
  • Stakeholder Type ‘B’ – These are easily identifiable but less involved stakeholders. They have a stake and the project is very visible to them, but they are less involved on a day to day basis.
  • Stakeholder Type ‘C’ – These stakeholders are not involved in the project much but do have a stake. They are often part of an identifiable broad grouping of people.
  • Stakeholder Type ‘D’ – These stakeholders are effected in some way by the project, and are so detached from the project that it is not easy to engage with them. They are also numerous – it would not be worth your time. ‘Public announcements’ might be the only way to engage with them – but it’s still important to do that.

The 80:20 rule definitely applies stakeholders. 20% of the stakeholders require 80% of your stakeholder time and effort!

But just what is this ‘time and effort’ related to stakeholders? It takes a little introspection. A good place to start is to look at past experiences:

  • How effectively have you dealt with stakeholders in the past?
  • What have you done well?
  • What problems have you encountered?
  • How have you resolved them?
  • What areas could have done better?
power interest stakeholder management map

The chart at left, the Power-Interest Stakeholder Matrix, is a common and helpful way to classify and handle stakeholders. And it lines up pretty closely with the target diagram I have presented at top right.

The ‘A’ stakeholders in the bulls eye chart are those who are the highest on Power (or influence) and Interest, and the prescription is to Manage Closely.

The ‘B’ and ‘C’ stakeholders in the bulls eye chart would align with those who are high on Power OR Interest – but not both. For them, the chart indicates an approach to Keep Satisfied or Keep Informed.

For those on the outer ring of the bulls eye chart, the ‘D’ Stakeholders, they are neither high on Power and influence nor Interest. The prescribed approach from the diagram is to Monitor this group.

This is all well and good – but let’s go a little deeper from the introspection approach started above. The next section shows some additional ways to stretch further in your management of stakeholders.

Going Deeper to Ensure Stakeholder Satisfaction

The following graphic shows stages of a project in terms of how you might deal with stakeholders. It depicts the management cycle of a program for change. Such a program will likely involve many projects.

stakeholder engagement phases

Stakeholder management is a big part of personal transition – as explained in detail in Michael Watkins’ book “The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter” (paid link).

Here is some deeper introspection as to the kinds of conversations you might have with stakeholders – and how the conversations are likely to shift when transitioning through the stages above:

  • Problem Diagnosis Conversation – What is the diagnosis of the problem to be solved? Are you on the same page? What about the timing of issues and involvement? In project planning, you work to clearly understand the problem or opportunity, and how the solution will address it. It’s another thing to make sure stakeholders are all on the same page. You may have certain groups of stakeholders that you need to cultivate to gain alignment.
  • Stakeholder Expectations Conversation – What are the expected results? Is there a gap between what they expect and what you can deliver? It is critical that this be established up front. Uncertainty can be handled with shorter time horizon goals. It is equally critical to monitor progress and communicate status – and be ready for conversations in the process.
  • Stakeholder Communication Conversation – What are expectations for communication? How will it be done, what is frequency, and how much detail? Will it change over time? There will probably be a higher frequency of communications at different phases for different stakeholders. Also, you may anticipate different types of conversations at different points in the processes. Frequency may increase right at the stage transition points.
  • Stakeholder Resources Conversation – What resources are expected of stakeholders? How can you keep resources aligned with benefits? This also will vary, where certain stakeholder resources will be needed up front, whereas others may be later in the program life cycle.
  • Training and Adaptation Conversation – What are expectations for development of stakeholder resources to adapt to the changes? Training often occurs later in an initiative. However, preparation might be helpful to achieve understanding along the way and create a glide path culminating with formal training.

The key is that there are a variety of types of conversations to be had with stakeholders. Further, these conversations will change over time. It is helpful to think through the whole life cycle of the project in terms of these anticipated conversations. It sets the stage for more engaged and successful stakeholder relationships.

Stakeholder Management Mapping and Strategy

A great deal of stakeholder management is oriented toward implementation. The problem is that, as with any organizational change initiative, everyone needs to buy in to the strategic change. In devising a strategy, strategists need to determine if “the bridge is too far” in terms of stakeholder capacity for change.

  • Is there buy in?
  • How much work will it take to gain the buy in?
  • What other strategic changes will be needed to gain buy in?
  • What are the current skillsets in-house?

The point about stakeholder management and strategy is simply that implementation and project management is a strategic capability.

Another strategic consideration is the type of business – as outlined in the STaRS transition model – where the initiative lies. It could be:

  • Startup – Stakeholders will be quite receptive to strategic change.
  • Turnaround – Stakeholders will likely recognize the need for drastic change.
  • Realignment – There is likely a disconnect between the current strategy and what the future holds. Change will be challenging.
  • Sustaining Success – Strategies to maintain course will be most well-received, but change will not.

Any of these types may exist within the organization. The key is to recognize the dominant type in the subject organization where the initiative is.

Project Management and Stakeholder Planning

The biggest thing to recognize is that there is no one size fits all approach to stakeholder management. Also, stakeholders do not necessarily fit into a simple framework of types, which alone guides communication.

The approach I am suggesting is to plan ahead for stakeholder management. Group your stakeholders logically, and anticipate the kinds of conversations you will need to have with stakeholders. A good starting point is that you will need to have conversations about:

  • Diagnosis of the problem and opportunities
  • Expectations of the stakeholders
  • Communication channel across various stakeholders
  • Resources needed from stakeholders
  • Adaptation to change and needed training

In addition to anticipating and planning for these conversations at the outset of your project, it will be helpful to try to anticipate revisiting those conversations as the project or program hits transition points, such as:

  1. Early in the initiative
  2. During deep and focused implementation
  3. During tweaking and potentially reshaping
  4. When a new steady state is reached (initiative had concluded)

These transition points may coincide with project phases, but they more likely coincide with program phases – transition points in the implementation of change. Program managers are responsible for the long term results, and project managers need to be aware of what phase(s) their project fits in this overall strategic initiative timeline.

Another challenge for program and project managers is stakeholder stamina in the face of change. How much capacity do the various groups of stakeholders have for the change that is coming?

Lucid offers a Stakeholder Map Template – check it out and try it for free.

Conclusion and Further Resources

This post has identified several ways to view and manage stakeholder relationships. It has emphasized an “introspective” approach which involves planning for engagement with various levels of stakeholders throughout the life cycle of the initiative. Finally, it looks at stakeholder management through the lens of the strategy and project management functions.

What is your approach to stakeholder management?

Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard that helps remote teams ideate and collaborate online. Use Lucidspark to brainstorm, collaborate, and turn your ideas into action. Sign up free. Slack integration. Revision history. Unify remote teams. Turn ideas into action. Easy to use.  See the Stakeholder Map Template Рcheck it out and try it for free (paid links).

Stakeholder management is a big part of personal transition – as explained in detail in Michael Watkins’ book “The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter” (paid link).

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