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Stakeholder engagement and influence will vary. Understanding each stakeholder’s perspective can assist in determining the interaction strategy that should be used with that stakeholder.
When to use
The project manager should regularly assess the interaction strategy to be used. Stakeholder interest in a project will change as business conditions and project performance change. At a minimum, the project manager should assess stakeholders at the beginning of each project phase.
There are many ways to predict a stakeholder’s influence on a project. The interaction cube provides a framework for assessing stakeholders and determining an appropriate interaction strategy.
The stakeholder interaction cube uses three stakeholder attributes to determine the optimal interaction strategy. The three attributes are the stakeholder’s interest in the project goals, their attitude towards the project and project management approach, and finally, their power to directly affect project activities. The project manager should assess each stakeholder against those three characteristics.
- High Power, High Interest, Positive Attitude – Pillar of support, interact regularly with full and open communication.
- High Power, High Interest, Negative Attitude – Saboteur, This stakeholder can create major problems for the project, be on the defensive with them.
- High Power, Low Interest, Positive Attitude – These can become key supportive stakeholders, if you can get them to focus on the project, win them over by ensuring that the project will meet one of their goals.
- High Power, Low Interest, Negative Attitude – Although a potentially influential stakeholder, since they are negative and uninterested, don’t annoy them.
- Low Power, High Interest, Positive Attitude – This stakeholder is friendly to the project, but cannot directly impact it. So, leverage their support with others who have power.
- Low Power, High Interest, Negative Attitude – This stakeholder is often an irritant. Their negative attitude has them complaining about the project, but they have no power to directly affect anything.
- Low Power, Low Interest, Positive Attitude – This individual is a bystander who can encourage others but has no ability to directly affect the project. Engage them to endorse the project with others.
- Low Power, Low Interest, Negative Attitude – This individual is not a factor and can be ignored.
Stakeholders are often engaged in the project at the time that critical decisions are made. That is an appropriate time for them to influence project direction and activities. However, the uncertain nature of projects means that often the information from which to make a decision is either unreliable or unstable, meaning that it is not based upon facts and is constantly changing. A project manager should set expectations with stakeholders about the decision-making progress based upon the nature of the information.
- When working with fixed facts, a final decision can be made.
- When working with fixed opinions, the stakeholders can decide and the project should proceed along the decision path, but it should also seek out information and facts to validate the decision. If the facts, once they are available, show a contrary conclusion is better, the decision should be revisited.
- When working with fluid or unstable facts, the facts that are available can often serve to rule out some options. This sets the boundaries of acceptable approaches and allows the team to focus on a general direction, but no final decision can be made.
- When there are only opinions and those are often changing, no final decision can be made. However, the project manager and stakeholders can at least decide to start on a possible path and begin to collect data.
Hints & tips
- Don’t treat every project stakeholder the same way. Decide what strategy best fits the situation.
- You normally do not have enough time and resources to provide in-depth interactions with all stakeholders. Prioritize those with the most power to affect the project.
- When conducting a major review or stakeholder meeting without a full and complete set of facts to support a decision, review the decision matrix to set expectations with the stakeholders.
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