I was recently asked by a fellow consultant if I could help and shed some light with information about Stakeholder Mapping, for a company for whom they were designing leadership workshops.
I’ve used Stakeholder Mapping a lot during my career, especially when running large projects, but I also use it often in executive coaching sessions, to help leaders think about their different stakeholders and how to manage them.
For in addition to Project Management, where Stakeholder Mapping is the first step towards Stakeholder Management, an invaluable part of any project, Stakeholder Mapping & Management can also be vital to the success of senior executives.
The higher one is promoted the more essential stakeholder relationships become to one’s success. Indeed for new executives, creating and establishing effective stakeholder relationships can be one of the most difficult challenges (and even more so in matrix organisations). Your success will be dependent on the support of others, rather than their resistance or blocking.
Analysis by Stakeholder Mapping allows one to determine which stakeholders are critical, to enlist the help of key organisational players, to know what significant stakeholders want (and more importantly what they do not want), to gain early alignment on your goals and plans and to address conflicts and potential issues early on.
A list of detailed steps to Stakeholder Mapping is as follows (although it might not be necessary to complete all steps, some – such as level of interest and level of influence or power – cannot be omitted).
Definition of the ‘why’:
Before jumping into brainstorming all the possible stakeholders one should define the focus of the exercise. Is it for the job or role, is it for a specific project, or a strategy, or success in a matrix organisation or even for one’s own executive development plan? This will allow focus on those stakeholders who are particularly relevant, rather than including every single stakeholder you may have.
Who are the people (or organisations) with influence and interest in what you are doing? (Without including stakeholders who are not involved with your focus!) The list of possibilities is long: bosses, senior executives, peers, team staff, employees (current, prospective), owners, investors, advisors, partners, customers (current, prospective), suppliers, clients, end users, analysts, community, public, government, regulators, interest groups and media.
Level of involvement:
As a final result you will want a strategy for engagement with stakeholders (an action plan): level of involvement with the job/project/issue (your ‘focus’) starts to build this. For example are they: Uninformed? Familiar? Or Expert?
Level of support:
What initial support might you expect from the stakeholders for your job/project/issue? A typical rating scale for support might be: actively opposed, somewhat opposed, neutral/ undecided, somewhat supportive, actively supportive. Are they likely to be an advocate or a blocker?
Level of impact:
Part of your analysis will be looking at the issue through the stakeholder’s eyes. So how much might your ‘focus’ (the job/ project/ issue) impact them? A simple ‘high, medium or low’ label will probably be enough as this stage.
Level of interest:
Is important to your mapping and analysis. How much does a stakeholder care about the outcomes? Are they beneficiaries or will there be negative effects for them? Again a simple ‘high, medium or low’ label might be enough as this stage, although it may be worth going further and thinking about what might be important for the stakeholder. What might the potential benefit or risk be to the stakeholder from what you are doing?
Level of influence/power:
Is the second of the two most important axes in any shareholder prioritisation. This is the degree to which a stakeholder can make or break the job/project/issue. How much influence do they have on your success (or otherwise)? Again a simple ‘high, medium or low’ label can be sufficient for an analysis, although you may wish to think more deeply. For example, how could they contribute to what you are doing? (e.g. through their role, skills, power, influence, budget, resources, interest, legitimacy, urgency , advocacy etc.) How exactly could they block?
Stakeholder Management is not a one-way street. It is also worthwhile thinking about what you (can) do for each other, what value you have on offer for each other or could exchange, as part of the mapping. What ‘currency of influence’ do you have for them? And rather than thinking about the mapping purely as between you and the stakeholders it is also useful to consider what the links are between stakeholders themselves, which could also influence the success or otherwise of your Stakeholder Management. (A real ‘map’ or diagram can be useful here: see below).
Many Stakeholder Management models for prioritisation use a 2×2 (or 3×3) matrix of high or low interest against influence/power. However a deeper analysis can be worthwhile, especially ‘standing in the stakeholder’s shoes’ and viewing your thoughts about the stakeholders’ views (and their own) from different perspectives. In addition, although interest and influence/power are often the two most important criteria, other factors (including some of those mentioned in the list above) may be more, or at least as, important in any given job/project/issue.
Possible strategy for engagement (Action plan):
Detailed engagement strategies and actions may be different for each stakeholder but as mentioned above, many Stakeholder Management models divide the possible approaches into four categories.
Manage (stakeholders with high interest, high influence): these are the key stakeholders. They need to be fully engaged, strong relationships built with them, and you need to ensure you retain their support.
Satisfy (low interest, high influence): these stakeholders are obviously highly influential but are not actively engaged or show little interest. One should consider their objectives and keep them satisfied, to ensure they remain strong advocates.
Inform (high interest, low influence): keep these stakeholders informed to ensure continual support. Their advice and/or knowledge could be useful to you in your job/project/issue (your ‘focus’).
Monitor (low interest, low influence): these stakeholders should be kept informed from time to time and one should encourage their interest. But one should not go over-the-top, irritate and waste their time.
A real ‘map’ or diagram:
Especially for those more visually oriented, it can be helpful to create a real ‘map’ or diagram of your stakeholder’s analysis, with you in the centre and the key stakeholders closer to the centre than those on the periphery (the ‘inform’ group for example). This can also be useful to illustrate both value exchange/’currency of influence’ (with arrows back and forth between you and your stakeholders) and the connections and links between the stakeholders themselves.
May be suggested by your original list of stakeholders, from your engagement with them.
Update/Review over time:
Your engagement with stakeholders may give you new or changed insights and stakeholders and their importance to the job/project/issue, your ‘focus’, may change over time.