How to Identify and Manage Your Key Stakeholders

How to Identify and Manage Your Key Stakeholders

How to Identify and Manage Your Key Stakeholders

A common challenge facing managers is how to know who to tell what information, how to tell them, and when.  With access to an unprecedented plethora of communication methods at our disposal, it is somewhat ironic that recurring complaints still abound regarding a general lack of communication in most organizations.  For example, nowadays a manager can receive an important piece of information in a telephone call/via email/IM/intranet/video conference call, or even by text.  He/she may then intend to disseminate this piece of news or update to the relevant team members/clients/peers/leaders.  However, in the fast-moving and complex work environment, the manager may well have to move on to the next meeting, or to firefight the next key issue; even worse, they may start to compose an email regarding the key piece of information they need to cascade, only to be interrupted a few times, and discover the next day that the email remained as a draft email!  Or an email is sent and misinterpreted, or a key stakeholder was missed off the distribution list.

In today's VUCA world and remote working environment, the list of our key stakeholders has become longer and more complex, often involving an interested party in another function or country, especially in matrix management structures.  Key stakeholders can include the following:

  • Your Boss
  • Shareholders
  • The Board
  • The CEO
  • Senior Executives
  • ‘Sister’ companies or subsidiaries
  • Business partners
  • Consultants
  • Peers
  • Team members
  • Customers and prospective Customers
  • Future Employees
  • The Community outside the office
  • Professional Bodies

Anyone who has completed a Project Management course will know that the key to the success of finishing a work task as a team, is to identify the key stakeholders and create a communication plan.  In 1991 Mendelow devised the Power/Interest Grid for stakeholder satisfaction.  This is still a very useful model for managers and team members to identify who their key stakeholders are, who has the most power and interest in the project or work task, and how and when it is best to communicate with them.

Having a list of key stakeholders in each quadrant of the matrix, with their preferred communication method next to their name can also be very helpful.  Stakeholders with the highest amount of power and interest are likely to be key players so need closer attention; they may include your boss and they should be consulted around key decisions, governance, objectives, measures, and progress surrounding your project or work assignments.  Interested parties with high power and low interest may be leaders in different functions, or those not directly associated with your work.

Stakeholders with a high level of interest in your work or projects, but low power may need to be kept informed as they may be able to influence the end goal directly through their networks.  Individuals who have low interest and low power may need to be kept informed via general information means, such as the intranet.  However, they may also need to be monitored, for example, they may be moved in to a new role, or promoted and then they become directly affected by your work or project.

When your key Stakeholders are identified you can decide how they need to be communicated with, i.e. by phone or email, but also the actual method of communication they require, for example, do they need to be informed or consulted/advised/asked/involved/sold to, or simply told about a new development?  Clearly, in complex projects and when matrix management is at play, the Power/Interest Matrix and communication methods become even more important.

Taking time out to develop your Emotional Intelligence and being able to flex your style according to your key stakeholders, can also be key to increased engagement levels of the interested parties and the success of your project or work assignment.

'Thank you for the introduction to the stakeholder matrix; having a distribution list I regularly review and update has been extremely useful.  Now everyone receives my reports at the same time!  I'm also seeing a real improvement in my interactions since I started to adapt my style with different stakeholders, so all good.'  Finance Manager

About Jill Maidment

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