Don’t get blindsided by stakeholder influence

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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I’ve written a few articles on the risk posed by resource availability to most knowledge-based projects, and I still feel that this is a frequent cause of schedule & budget overruns.  Other common risk factors impacting projects include requirements clarity, technology uncertainties and organization change resistance.  Finally, project priority is a major source of risk these days – the “star” project that receives funding and focus today could morph into the “dog” tomorrow that is starved of resources.

A more subtle risk factor, and yet one that can be equally pernicious has to do with that unique project role – the stakeholder.  I was once told this definition for a stakeholder: “Anyone with the ability to sink your project”.

One tends to think of negative stakeholder influence as a common source of risk to construction or other highly visible external projects, but any moderately complex internal project could also possess multiple stakeholders with competing agendas.

To address this source of risk, the best response is thorough and regular stakeholder analysis.  If you are not sure that you have identified all of your stakeholders, seek advice from a peer or mentor.  Meet individually with your stakeholder representatives early on and reinforce these relationships throughout the lifecycle of your project.  It may be naive to assume that you can satisfy the needs of all of your stakeholders, so your objective should be to manage the impacts of their influence on your project.  If it is not possible to work towards a “win, win” situation, you may need to solicit assistance from your project sponsorship or other stakeholders.

Project teams working on high stress, aggressive time line (is there any other kind?) projects tend to focus on their customer or  their project steering committees.  This myopia can be fatal – stakeholder influence is perhaps the best example of Dr. Hillson’s definition for risk: “Uncertainty that matters”.

(Note: I wasn't blindsided when I wrote this article in January 2011 on

Posted on: March 14, 2019 08:51 AM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Good Points.
Engaging stakeholders during and especially at the beginning of the project will help reduce and uncover risks and increase their “buy-in.” When stakeholders are adequately engaged, their influence spreads far and wide . Stakeholders engagement turn help increase project success .
But i agree with your point " Don’t get blindsided by stakeholder influence "


Stakeholders analysis should be ongoing like you suggest, their view and interest can change during the project execution. Longer the project...

Thanks Kiron. Your article is very relevant even after 8 years..

Interesting points. Thanks for sharing!!

Thank you.

Thanks Vinod - some of these are "oldies but goldies" which is why I'm republishing them on this platform.

Thanks Tarik!

Agree with you that stakeholders are important source of risk. Multiple stakeholders with competing agendas are definitely great source of this kind of project risk.

Thanks a lot for your suggestions to manage this kind of risk. Especially regular stakeholders analysis and seeking help from sponsor are great advice shared by you.

Thank you Kiron!!

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