Project Management

Can Frogs Be Stakeholders?

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by Linda Agyapong

"Who" really is a stakeholder?

I enjoy breaking down some of the buzzwords in project management.

In my previous post, we looked at “project success” vs. “project management success.”

Today I’d like to focus on “stakeholder”—one of the most buzzworthy terms.

For this discussion, let’s check in with our three favorite project managers: Jim, Mary and Alex. They have been tasked with a major construction project in Europe. On the first day of their kickoff meeting, as they were documenting their project charter, they got stuck because the three of them could not agree on identifying all the stakeholders for the project.

Turns out the targeted site for the construction project had a natural habitat for a specific kind of protected species—the moor frog.

Jim and Mary jointly agreed that moor frogs should never be considered as stakeholders of the project—after all, they were not humans. But Alex maintained that they should be considered as stakeholders because the frogs would either be significantly affected by the project, or they would significantly affect the project.

Alex then explained that the classic definition of a stakeholder—from the legendary business theorist R. Edward Freeman—did not segregate animals from humans, nor living things from non-living things. In his award-winning book, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, Mr. Freeman defined a stakeholder as “any group or individual who can affect, or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives.” He subsequently clarified that this definition can be expanded further to cover anything that the organization significantly affects, or is significantly affected by it.

Alex added that the very issue had been argued in the journal article Project Temporalities: How Frogs Can Become Stakeholders by Kjell Tryggestad, Lise Justesen and Jan Mouritsen. These authors took the stance that the natural habitat of the frogs provided some benefits to people in the community, such as via food, recreation or entertainment. Because of that value, the moor frogs should be classified as stakeholders.

Robert A. Phillips and Joel Reichart argued the opposite in their article, The Environment as a Stakeholder? A Fairness-Based Approach. They said that this natural habitat cannot be classified as a stakeholder because, “only humans are capable of generating the necessary obligations for generating stakeholder status.” Their basis was that stakeholders can only impact a project when they “make themselves known as part of the empirical process to develop the project.”

Tryggestad, Justesen and Mouritsen, however, advised that non-living things could be actors of the project if they make a visible difference within the project, such as significantly impacting any of the triple constraints of the project (namely time, cost and scope). Their rationale was that “an actor does not act alone. It acts in relation to other actors, linked up with them.” The frogs were then considered to be “an entity entangled in a larger assemblage consisting of both humans and non-humans.” At the end of their research, the frogs were classified as actors or stakeholders of the construction project.

To bring it home, Alex calmly advised his colleagues that the frogs have peacefully lived in that part of the community for several years. To avoid incurring the residents’ wrath, they should classify frogs as stakeholders and subsequently make the necessary arrangements to appease the community accordingly.

In the end, Jim and Mary unanimously agreed to this great suggestion.

I encourage you to think outside the box to identify all the potential stakeholders for your upcoming projects. Good luck!

Posted by Linda Agyapong on: May 23, 2018 05:26 PM | Permalink

Comments (21)

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When you consider the entire ecosystem, it is easy to see why frogs could be stakeholders.

Excellent. Somebody needs to be the voice of the animals and ecosystem. Now, how about that butterfly...

The fact that they *specific kind of protected species—the moor frog* made them a stakeholder.

A stakeholder can impact the project, the frog can clearly impact the project in regards to maintaining habitat.

@Andrew that is also the case for butterfly, look-up Monarch Butterfly. They travel from Canada to Mexico each year, there is a small valley filled with a specific tree that is required in winter, some requirements in the travel path in the USA and other in northern states and Canada during summer. They are in the endangered species, it takes 3 generations to make each trip.

Beautifull butterflies

Thank for the post

@Vincent, agreed. I was suggesting the ‘butterfly effect ‘ :)

@ Sante - That's an interesting perspective! Could you kindly throw some light on why you say so?

This is another level of stakeholders, it is nice prospective thanks

Linda, most species share many of the same things: sunlight, nutrients, water, oxygen, wanting to survive. The ability of one virus to infect across species proves this point. So even if we never come across a rare species, or even a common one like the frog, we are all connected because most of our elements originated from some dying star way before our own sun became one.

Sante - Very true... thanks for the clarification!

I agree, In short, anything around us can be a stakeholder, as the project can have impact on them or they may be impacted by project. Good One.

Probably instead of considering frogs as stakeholders, the dept of natural resources or wild life or forest officials could have been stakeholders. They could advise on how to prevent habitat loses for frogs.

Interesting article.
Thanks a lot !!!

"Turns out the targeted site for the construction project had a natural habitat for a specific kind of protected species—the moor frog".

Very interesting topics, as the moor frog is a specific kind of protected species, so in the designing and implementing the project, the frog environment must be priorities considered. Therefore, the frog is "one of the key stakeholders".

“any group or individual who can affect, or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives.” This is a pretty standard definition but it’s amazing how easy it can be to accidentally exclude a stakeholder

The frogs will not be able to croak out their requirements at kick off or other meetings. Even if they did, would you take them so seriously if they were perhaps, overpopulating the community and causing a nuisance with no economic value?

If they were not an endangered specie, and were, lets say, carriers of a deadly virus? Would they be stakeholders if they had to be eradicated?

More likely, the community who protect the frog and gain directly or indirectly from its presence are the stakeholders. Dealing with their habitat may present some constraints that may affect have impacts on the projects outcome, however, this can be controlled. In my opinion, as they will serve as inputs to most of the planning processes.

Concerning the aforementioned project, they are more Enterprise environmental factors than stakeholders.

I am an environmentalist and I love nature, plants and animals alike. Thank you Linda.

Thanks for interesting article.

Brilliant! This is a perspective projects rarely consider. A deliberate thoughtfulness needs to be given to nature.

This is a good share Linda, Thank you.

Thanks for the interesting article and a different perspective.

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