What’s At Stake

If your project is going to succeed, you have to identify your stakeholders.

Stakeholder feels like a fifty-cent word that doesn’t have a good alternative. A stakeholder in your project can be two types of people. A stakeholder is a person who:

  1. might be affected by the change that is happening
  2. could have some influence over the change that is happening.

As a person responsible for managing a project, it is essential that you identify who the stakeholders are. There are times when someone might think that you don’t have to think about specific stakeholders because they are going to forced to adopt the change whether they like it or not. Even if someone doesn’t have a choice about how your project is delivered, you should still note this in your stakeholder list. These people will be affected by the change, and you can plan to make the transition as easy as possible.

What Is In a Stakeholder List

A stakeholder list starts with a list of all of the stakeholders and a short description of what role they play in the project. The categories are self-explanatory. Each stakeholder will then be assigned a description of their engagement:

  • Unaware
  • Resistant
  • Neutral
  • Supportive
  • Leading

Knowing what level of engagement your stakeholders are coming in with is essential. Equally important is knowing what level of involvement the stakeholder have once the project is complete. You may want to move some stakeholders from Unaware to Supportive, or even leading. You might also find that some stakeholders are resistant to the project’s outcome right from the beginning. If it important for these resistant stakeholders to become supporters, you can plan to help them make this change. But if it doesn’t matter to the project outcome whether these stakeholders are resistant or not, then don’t spend time on them. A middle manager may be very resistant to the new logo that you are designing, but it doesn’t mean that you have to have them on board when the project is complete. On the other hand, if it is a very influential middle-manager, you will want to identify the need to move them from resistant to leading. Their engagement will increase the chance of project success.

Who Goes There?

There are many different tools and approaches that you can find for stakeholder engagement (eg. Stakeholder Mapping, 5 Stakeholder Analysis Techniques.) But if you aren’t ready to dive that deeply, at your very least write down a list of those people who the project will touch in some way. Then come back and review this list every week.

Simply reading the list once a week will spark thoughts and ideas about how you will connect, engage, and support the stakeholders that you have listed. This informal technique will serve as a reminder to you that the project is being done for the stakeholders.

Connecting and engaging with your stakeholders, it will give your project the strength it needs to succeed.