Who is a Stakeholder?

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Categories: Communication


Everyone is talking about stakeholders these days. Surprisingly, this has not always been the case. The modern concept of stakeholders seems to have emerged from the work of the Tavistock Institute in London, England in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Forty years later, the concept of stakeholder has expanded to include all of the people and organizations that have a real or perceived '"stake" in the project or its outcomes.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) breaks down a stakeholder as a person or organization that:

•    Is actively involved in the project
•    Has interests that may be positively or negatively affected by the performance or completion of the project
•    May exert influence over the project, its deliverables or its team members

In my work on mapping and managing stakeholders, I have found it important to expand on this basic definition to understand the "stake" of the stakeholder. This helps determine the best way to engage with them.  

Here are some of the different stakes a person or organization may have (most have more than one):

Interest: To be affected by a decision related to the work or its outcomes

Rights: To be treated in a certain way or to have a particular right (including legal or moral) protected

Ownership: To have a legal title to an asset or a property

Knowledge: To possess specialist or organizational knowledge needed for the work

Impact or influence: To be impacted by the work or its outcomes, or have the ability to impact (or influence) the execution of work or its outcomes

Contribution: Relating to the support or assets including the supply of resources, the allocation of funding, or providing advocacy for the objectives of the project

Once you understand the stake the stakeholder is seeking to protect, profit from or enhance, you can structure your communications to let the person know you understand their hopes or concerns. From this starting point, you're in a much better position to manage the relationship to the benefit of both the project and the stakeholder.
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: September 22, 2009 12:08 PM | Permalink

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