Stakeholder Analysis – Part 1

The rule rather than the exception is that some stakeholders will love the solution you have defined while others will find it unacceptable, unworkable, or simply ludicrous.  Many projects have been scrubbed because a high influence stakeholder did not have a relationship with a project leader and felt they weren’t given adequate opportunity for input in the planning process.

To find some balance or common ground, use the Stakeholder Analysis, which consists of two parts:

  1. Stakeholder Solution Assessment (SSA): designed to identify what stakeholders do/do not like about the proposed solution.
  2. Stakeholder Issue Resolution (SIR): designed to manage concerns about the solution voiced by stakeholders.

A good idea that never gets implemented is no better than a bad idea.  When good ideas are implemented, the team wins, the organization wins, and the customer wins.

Good ideas emerge from open discussion and debate between suppliers and clients in  stable, productive relationships.  The SSA and SIR will facilitate this process.

These steps will lead you through a successful Stakeholder Analysis:

  • Identify all key stakeholders
  • Conduct a Stakeholder Solution Assessment to surface concerns
  • Address concerns through Stakeholder Issue Resolution
  • Present to key stakeholders, seeking:
    • Acceptance, then
    • Support, and finally
    • Approval

The objective of the Stakeholder Analysis is to promote a high level of acceptance of the team’s solution.  By doing so, the probability of successful implementation is taken to a new level.

Identifying Key Stakeholders

To implement a solution, it must be supported by the right people.  You must develop strong and functional relationships with everyone who will approve, implement, be affected by, or simply support the solution.

The people whose support is needed are:

  • Those who must formally approve the solution
  • Those who must implement the solution
  • Those who must live with the solution
  • Those who must informally support the solution

Those who must formally approve the solution.  This might be one person or a small group.  Typically it is the person who has the final say. Budget and other resources may be involved.  It then may be the person(s) with expenditure authority.  Without formal approval, everything comes to a halt.

Those who must implement the solution.  The people who must implement the solution must support it.  Some of these people may be members of the team.  It depends on the nature of the idea being proposed.  There may be a number of people involved.  For example, the team may have representatives from production, maintenance, engineering, or scheduling.  Their solution may include changing the documentation for reporting on production output or machine up-time.  The solution may involve others from these departments.  It may also involve accounting, purchasing and shipping.

It may not be practical to get the support of everyone included.  However, identifying key stakeholders is critical.  Key stakeholders are formal or informal leaders in groups or departments responsible for implementation of the solution.

Without support of key stakeholders, problems will arise.  The end result may be failed implementation.  Also, there may be a perception that the team came up with a bad idea.

Those who must live with the solution.  The people directly affected by the solution are often those who implement it.  However, they may be a different group altogether.  For example, a team proposes a new office layout.  The team will also be involved with implementation.  Programmers, engineers, and others who work in the office will live with the new layout.  They will not be actively involved in implementing change.  Their support is important, however.  Without it, failure is likely.

Those who must informally support the solution.  This group fits none of the previous categories.  However, they are still important to success.  They are often referred to as “champions” or “advocates”.  They command respect within the organization.  Therefore, their support is extremely valuable.

This group may include top managers with little or no involvement with the implementation.  Or, they may be very much part of the solution.  In either case, they have clear influence with people in the previous categories.  In particular, they have influence with those whose approval is needed.

For differing reasons, these people must support the solution.  Their support is necessary for successful implementation.  Identifying them is crucial to identifying key stakeholders.

The Role of Influence

Projects do not run in a vacuum.  In addition to the impact the project has on the people who are responsible for conducting it, every project affects other individuals, groups, and even other projects.  This means that a lot of people in the organization will take an interest in your project, for a wide variety of reasons.  And where there is interest, there is also influence.

Webster defines influence very simply: “the power to affect others.”  Your challenge is to identify the source of the power, and the intent of the change, in order to secure the success of your project.  The best, and perhaps only, way to do this is to develop good working relationships with all project stakeholders.

First let’s consider where influencers get their power.  These four categories are not exhaustive, but cover the most common situations.

  1. Position: Department Heads, Plant Managers, Account Representatives, etc., can wield significant influence through the power vested in their position.  Influential moves by these people will most likely come “through channels” (i.e., visible and documented efforts to change the project).
  2. Competence: Every project has its complement of subject matter experts.  These people exert influence through advice and/or criticism.  Their efforts can be upfront and formal (e.g., reports at project review meetings) or subtle (side conversations to influence team members).
  3. Affiliation: Every organization has its share of unofficial groups and cliques.  Individuals who have participated on previous high-profile projects, been successful in winning large accounts, or are on the “fast track” may have the right affiliation to impact change in your project.  They are most effective influencing other people who would like to join their club.
  4. Politics: You can name at least a half-dozen people (managers as well as individual contributors) who are “connected”.  These people have the ear of key decision makers and can exercise significant influence without ever speaking to you.

You cannot change the source of anyone’s ability to influence or their intent to exercise that influence.  What you can do is influence the influence.  You do this by learning their interests and needs surrounding your project, surfacing any dislikes or concerns, and using the four dimensions of relationship management to dissipate any negative consequences their influence may create.

One last point – influence is not always negative or destructive.  Developing close relationships with stakeholders will also reveal your supporters and advocates.  The better you are at positioning your project for meeting the needs of these important people, the more you will enjoy their benevolent influence.

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