Assess the Stakeholder’s Power

Stakeholder management involves everything necessary to control relationships with all the individuals a program has an impact on or affects to ensure the achievement of the program’s objectives. One of the primary concerns for any program manager should be stakeholder management, as it is an ongoing process that is never completed.

Our Guide to Stakeholder Management walks you through this critical process:

Part 1 of 6: Identifying Stakeholders
Part 2 of 6: Assess the Stakeholders’ Power
Part 3 of 6: Build Stakeholder Relationships
Part 4 of 6: Build Relationships Among Stakeholders
Part 5 of 6: Communication Strategies for Stakeholders
Part 6 of 6: Lead the Stakeholders

Part 2 of 6: Assess the Stakeholders’ Power

Once you have identified all the stakeholders, you need to analyze their potential impact on the program. This includes assessing each stakeholder’s power. You should know the limits of the stakeholders’ power as well as how much they can hurt you and how much they can help you. Assess their history of using that power. Knowing what has caused them to exercise power in the past is very valuable, as it is usually a predictor of what will or can cause them to exercise power in the future. You’ll also find that many stakeholders have power but never use it. This information enables you to know how to gain access to that power in case you need it later. Finally, you should know what type of power each stakeholder has. Is it positional, influence, expert, charismatic, and so on?

A common method of analyzing stakeholders is to plot their levels of power and preference. In Figure 3-1, the following definitions apply:

    • High. The stakeholder has the power to kill the project or keep the project viable when it is under attack.
    • Medium. The stakeholder has the power to help or impede the project’s process or to partner with and influence other stakeholders to keep or kill the project.
    • Low. The stakeholder has little or no influence to help or impede the project.

Stakeholder Assessment

  • For. The stakeholder fully supports the project.
  • Indifferent. The stakeholder is uninformed or indifferent about the project.
  • Against. The stakeholder is against the project.

Calculate the score by multiplying the stakeholders’ power by their preference. Any score of 4 or above requires proactive work with the stakeholder, and the program manager should ensure that contingency plans are in place in case of adverse stakeholder action. This method is used in an attempt to identify the powerful stakeholders who are against and those who are for the program and its projects. This method can be valuable, but its simplicity compared with the complexity of stakeholder relationships and organizational culture makes its use at face value very risky.

The stakeholder assessment grid is a static representation, and as business conditions and organizations change over time, so can stakeholder preferences. Programs are also complex, and so although this grid may work well for individual projects, stakeholders may have varying preferences for projects and initiatives within a program. This tool is a good one but is more applicable at the project level. If it is used at the program level, individual projects should be delineated. In any case, it is important to understand the why of stakeholder preferences and always pay attention to whether powerful stakeholders are for or against the program.

Stakeholder management involves building effective relationships and constant communication to keep programs on track and successful. WorkOtter helps you keep stakeholders informed of important project status and build collaboration between those involved in the program. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can help you build your stakeholder relationships.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.

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