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I want to map the stakeholders on a project to help form a communication plan.

The typical power vs. interest matrix (below) is very helpful, but I fear I can't store it in a document others may read.

I suspect people would be offended to see themselves in the low power boxes, or they might see how they compare to other colleagues and feel insulted.

power vs interest matrix

Can anyone suggest a type of stakeholder map, or a rewording of the terms used above, so it won't offend people?

Or must I assume this is always private information for the project manager?

  • For synonyms of English words that don't have a negative bias, English Language & Usage might be a better fit. Although you can find plenty of synonyms by just typing the applicable words into Google or some online thesaurus or dictionary. But you can only do so much sugarcoating if you're trying to say someone lacks power or interest. – NotThatGuy Apr 15 at 23:27
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    Wow. I've never seen anything like this (I'm not a PM), but I suspect if the grunts in your organization banded together and pushed for some change, made a chart like this, grouping the various PMs and upper-crust leaders into these 4 categories, it wouldn't feel great, so I suspect you are right to question using such a thing. – kmort Apr 16 at 22:51
  • I'm not sure if I'm the only one considering most of the answers to this question to be best fit as comments. If the community agree on that, feel free to downvote / flag them accordingly. – Tiago Cardoso Apr 18 at 17:00

11 Answers 11

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compare to other colleagues and feel insulted.

The other two answers are good - but this confuses me. When I've done stakeholder analysis, the process has been open and participatory. There shouldn't be any value judgement. Power and influence are closely related to budget and participation. If a given stakeholder feels that the graph shows them as less powerful or less influential, that is an opportunity to discuss their involvement. If they want to be perceived as more powerful, I'd welcome their budgetary contributions. If they want to be more influential, I'd be happy to forward the invitation to the Integrated Project Team.

If the real issue is just ego stroking - where person x wants to be shown as more important than person Y, then I'll offer to escalate that to the project sponsor and ask the project sponsor to formally declare which of the people is more important to the project and which of them is a more concerned about their own ego than the business.

But the whole point of doing stakeholder mapping is to escalate these conflicts and make them transparent. If there are two stakeholders who are trying to control the direction of the project, then you want to identify that and resolve that conflict early. Better to have that conversation before they start spiking one another's participation in the configuration control board.

Projects thrive when they have clear vision shared by all participants. Part of establishing that vision is communication.

Sometimes (unfortunately) communication involves telling stakeholder X that Stakeholder Y has more control of this project - that budgetary or business reasons mandate that the project will address stakeholder Y's interests. In such a condition, I'd do my best to identify the lowest common denominator, but give stakeholder X the opportunity to solve the problem their own way (with their own project). I would hope that someone senior in the enterprise would deconflict the divergent interests, but I will serve my stakeholders.

Like I said, the other two answers are good -but I wanted to provide an alternative perspective.

@DavidEspina has managed to express everything I said above in a more pithy quote:

Transparency would be my go to all the way up until I can't.

I suggest less emotionally laden labels for the boxes; I don't mind being invited to monitor a project, but I think being labelled as an "Apathetic" is likely to generate unwelcome management attention. There are multiple variations of this graph - here is one I found that I think might generate less bruised egos Stakeholder graph showing value neutral lables

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    Depending on methods, there is another stakeholder product that identifies potential saboteurs or whatever other negative threat to a transformation effort. That product informs mitigation strategy for change resistance. It would be a product that shouldn't grow legs and be tightly controlled. – David Espina Apr 14 at 12:59
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    But I do agree with your sentiment. Transparency would be my go to all the way up until I can't. – David Espina Apr 14 at 13:00
  • Thanks for the insights. I went with your idea of softening the wording. I also placed people into the four buckets, rather than a more nuanced version with dots for each person. I figured that would leave less room for comparison, whilst still achieving the overall aim. – Duncan Jones Apr 16 at 13:27
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I personally don’t like tools you have to hide. This leads to mistrust and if it leaks (for whatever reason) you are in trouble.

So we started 20 years ago to use a technique which is called project environment analysis (AKA extended stakeholder analysis). The tool is simple and efficient and is part of the open accessible project handbook and is also used as basis for the communication and marketing plan.

The first part is a simple graphic where:

  • the project is in the middle. Grouped around are all relevant environments (which include all stakeholders), but also other relevant entities (not viewed in a classic stakeholder analysis - for example, customers never using the IT system, but indirectly affected).
  • The visual size of bullets (circles) represents the power (formal and informal) these have,
  • the thickness of the line the relationship (strong to weak) they have to the project and
  • the distance or remoteness of the bullets to the middle the stronger or weaker they are able to influence the project.

Until now there is no connotation about how positive or negative this is/could be.
Below is a table where those three dimensions per environment are described AND interpreted by the project team.
We use even symbols in the graphic to identify "large positive or negative expectations" towards an environment.
These relationships change of course in the time the project is running. Environments get added or removed and the table is also reviewed during a project controlling session.

I believe in open communication when it comes to relationship management.
Small personal episode: As the responsible programme manager on the business side, the CTO (of a 20,000+ employee company) called me to his office showing me the environment graphic (somebody from IT had "illegally" copied from our project server - although you could openly access it via the intranet - always have a revision control in place to find out such things). He was astonished to see himself marked with a flash (highly negative impact). So we started talking about why and how the team assessed this and guess what - at the end of the project he had a smiley on his entity, because a good and trusting relationship has been built during the next 10 months.

In company environments never assume something can be kept secret, especially if more than one person (sic!) is involved. So if you do it, it should do no harm if going public.

Here a schematic for the community (simplified and fictious)

enter image description here

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    The idea looks interesting - a visual example of it would add a lot of value to your answer. – Tiago Cardoso Apr 14 at 13:25
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    Here you go thanks for the feedback – Codebreaker007 Apr 14 at 18:51
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It's best to avoid using group titles like defenders and apathetics. The map in ProjectManagementBlueprint conveys the same stakeholder analysis but without the labels. It also uses the phrase engage and consult instead manage closely.

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Honestly, Duncan, I think that you should simply present it to everyone and presume that all concerned are "at work right now" and thinking about the project ... not their fragile egos. This four-square diagram is functional and descriptive, and anyone's free to disagree with you -- if they care in the slightest.

Show them this diagram if there is a purpose for you doing so. Such as decision-making between multiple projects. If you decide to use it, use it and be done.

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This and other stakeholder analytics need to be tightly controlled and viewed only by those that need to view it. Changing the words can alter the tool's intent and in an unfavorable way. So do it as prescribed and protect it as if your job depends on it.

EDIT: Segmenting stakeholders into one category or another is necessary so you know how to communicate to them, get information from them, get some of them to participate, get others to move out of the way, or whatever other action is necessary. Not only in the grid above, but those segments could be whatever they need to be for your project and some of those segments can be insulting, discouraging, alarming, etc. If you adopt a 100% transparency strategy, you open up a ton of risks that could damage your project or you might be motivated to avoid segmenting some stakeholders in their proper grouping for fear of their reaction. And then your stakeholder analysis becomes a waste of time.

All businesses, operations and projects, maintain secrecy and need to know strategies all the time. This is no different. Sometimes you need to maintain a need to know basis for the sake of the project and there is nothing wrong with it.

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    Two can keep a secret--if one of them is dead. – user3067860 Apr 16 at 13:55
  • It's a challenge but can be done. I've worked with projects with PII. Somehow, we kept it that information secure. There is risk but you mitigate that risk and keep moving. – David Espina Apr 16 at 15:30
  • I work on a project with PII and there are leaks. Deliberate and inadvertent. I mean, people have managed to accidentally leave behind the "nuclear football": news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/328442.stm (More examples at the bottom, in case you think they're picking on one politician.) There's no way your org chart is getting better treatment than that. – user3067860 Apr 16 at 16:21
  • As I said, you have risks with it. But what is the alternative? Put everything out? Get rid of top secret, secret classifications? Live stream intel meetings? C-suite strategies for their company put on FB? This is life. Some things you keep secret and you guard it knowing all the risks. – David Espina Apr 16 at 16:23
  • I think other answers have offered good alternatives, such as change the language and layout so that it is morally neutral while still providing the needed information...then it doesn't matter if it leaks. – user3067860 Apr 16 at 16:26
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You are right to be concerned about how the chart would be perceived by your stakeholders. The best answer, in my opinion, is to not publish it - there's no rule stating every document you produce has to be provided to the project team. This document is meant to be an analytical tool so you, as a project manager, can make decisions on how to handle each of your key stakeholders.

I use this type of matrix as input into my communications plan - not as an end unto itself. Providing this matrix to the stakeholders adds no value to their understanding or management of the project. Again, this is a planning tool; they have no "need to know" how you have evaluated their power and influence.

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I suggest you to map stakeholders anonymously, like that (blue dots - stakeholders) :

enter image description here

So everybody will win,- project will be defined objectively and nobody will be insulted personally. Or use pie chart composed of 4 sections which would represent number of % from stakeholders in each category.

EDIT

If you need to implement individual communication plan according to this stakeholder segmentation and you want to document in a project to what group some stakeholder exactly belongs - you need a slightly different approach. Then I would recommend to assign some letters for each group in some pattern,- your stakeholders segmentation scheme (your private info "password"). Something like that :

enter image description here

Then in your documentation you can show for each stakeholder that he/she has P/I grade as one of A,B,C or D. What grade means what- will depend solely on your segmentation scheme, which you can add in documentation as a last appendix. If stakeholder is lazy,- he may not go into last pages of documentation. Well, then it's their problem, not yours.

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    How do you keep the stakeholders informed if they are anonymous? What is the value to an anonymous stakeholder of knowing the % of stakeholders in each box? – Mark C. Wallace Apr 15 at 12:57
  • Anonymous in these charts, not globally in a project. In a project they can be individually known of course. I think in reverse, for a value - you don't need to know exactly who is where in chart. The statistics is what is most important. If for example, 99% of stakeholders are in the left-lower corner,- then this can mean that a project has very low added value for a business and is not worth to mess with. – Agnius Vasiliauskas Apr 15 at 13:17
  • I think OP's question is specifically about storing the information in the project. I think your strategy works for determining business value, but I think OP is asking about internal project documentation. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 15 at 13:29
  • If the situation on the ground is actually "that delicate," dots (maybe of different colors?) might be a practical choice for your PowerPoints . . . a rather creative solution, actually. – Mike Robinson Apr 15 at 13:59
  • @MarkC.Wallace, see my edit. I've added another approach for stakeholder personal segmentation – Agnius Vasiliauskas Apr 15 at 14:22
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I am quite sure the mapping of shareholders is described in pmi as a private exercise.

The point is not to alienate anyone, just to have clarity for yourself as you manage the project.

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This isn't exactly what you are looking for, but I think it will solve your end goal.

SOFT is a system methodology that was made for hospitals that are known for having conflict of interest between e.g. nurses and doctors.

Here is a picture as example:

enter image description here

The swords means there is a true conflict where both parts are right but it has to be understood.

Giving everybody a stick figure etc. is designed to make everybody human.

For more on this, google

rich picture used in the Soft System Methodology
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  • Hi Thomas, welcome to PM.SE. As your answer stands, it does not answer the original question. Could you expand it in a way it wouldn't need any external resource? – Tiago Cardoso Apr 18 at 16:56
  • Thanks @TiagoCardoso. I have included the first picture. I'll ofcourse delete the answer if it gets -3, but it sort of is a shame because SOFT is a really underestimated project management methodology that solves exactly what is asked for. – Thomas Koelle Apr 19 at 17:39
  • Looks great now, thanks Thomas! – Tiago Cardoso Apr 20 at 13:35
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Power-interest grade is the process to identify, differentiate among stakeholders and further to make actionable to get desired goal. PM only authorised to this document and should be completely confidential from other project documents.

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My priorities are as follows:

  1. Promoters (Key Players)
  2. Defenders (Meet their Needs)
  3. Apathetics (Show Consideration)
  4. Latents (Less Important)

During this analysis we can identify the authority, influence and the interest of the particular stakeholder on the project. It's obvious that everyone will focus on their own interest; so it is important to strike a balance between various needs and desires.

Three steps in this Stakeholder analysis: Identifying the stakeholders, Identifying Potential Impact and Assessing their reactions or responses in various situations.

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  • This doesn't address my question of how to avoid offending people. Instead, this seems to be a description of how you do stakeholder management. – Duncan Jones Apr 20 at 15:42

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