Communicating With the Right Stakeholders

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Categories: Communication

Any project team will have far more stakeholders to potentially communicate with than they have either the time, money or people to manage. But selecting the right stakeholders for a sustained communication effort in a project is not simple and can be a very resource intensive process.

My research over the last 10 years suggests a three-phased approach works best.

One: Identify the stakeholders and figure out what you need from them and what they want from the success (or failure) of the project. This is called 'mutuality'. If you can show the person they're likely to achieve at least some of their aims, they're far more likely to provide you with what you need from them.

Two: Work out which stakeholder is most important. This requires assessing at least three aspects for each:
•    How powerful is the stakeholder? Can he or she close the project down, force change or do they have little direct impact?
•    How much effort is the stakeholder likely to invest in asserting their position or 'rights'? Some stakeholders will go to almost any lengths to assert their position while others are really not that interested.
•    How close is the stakeholder to the project? People actively working on the project have more impact than those who are relatively distant.

Three: Determine the attitude of each important stakeholder towards the project and how receptive they are to your communication.

Now you have the information needed to focus your communication efforts where they can achieve the greatest benefit. People who have a supportive attitude simply need 'business as usual' communication. On the other hand, important stakeholders who are assessed as having a less than optimal attitude may need heroic communication efforts to change their views if the project is going to succeed.

And always remember: People change. Reassessing the stakeholder community on a regular basis helps ensure the communication plan is working or if it needs changing.

More on this soon.
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: August 31, 2009 03:34 PM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Don F Perkins
Hi Lynda Great post- I find a lot of cross over from your tips into the sales engineering realm where the same three principles apply in regards to identifying power (level of influence), pain (real issue in need of solving) and persuasion (receptivity) of customer contacts. Improper selection and weeding out of these important roles can end in lots of wasted time and effort, and sometimes even break a deal. Looking forward to hearing more from you on this. Don F Perkins

Gregor Petri
Lynda, Appreciate the 10 years of research you put in, my expectation (or maybe hope) however would be that - over those last 10 years - facts and figures gained an increased role in decision making. Not saying project politics and favoritism have vanished (I do live on this planet) but thanks to better information and decision tooling the decision process should have become more transparent and more properly (more independently) governed. Targeted and personal(ised) communication still stays important , especially in the current times of email overload. But smart recipients should take the individual data fed to them and put it into the wider context of the total project portfolio. We’ve been discussing this and related themes at and would be interested in your experience on how this is continuing to evolve.

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