Monday, March 12, 2018

A step by step stakeholder mapping guide

Stakeholder Engagement and Stakeholder Management is essential for defining and realizing project success. One important tool to help you with this is stakeholder mapping. This article provides a step by step guide on how to do this effectively.

You will learn how to analyze stakeholders by interest and influence to identify key players, potential saboteurs, advocates and avoid time wasters. Following the steps in this article, you can develop a sound plan to engage the most important people in your project - your stakeholders.

What are stakeholders?

You can think of stakeholders as "Anyone who has a stake in the project" although this can be a bit broad. A more workable definition might be: "Anyone who can make, or break, your project".

This group of more specific stakeholders can be segmented into four major groups - Sponsors, Change Teams, Reference Groups and Users.

1) Sponsors (or project owners) are often those who initiate the project by mobilizing the resources needed and charging people with the responsibility for getting it done. Sponsors own the requirement for the project - and if the requirement changes they must direct the change project accordingly.
2) Project Teams are those charged with the responsibility for executing the project and ensuring it happens. The project team is responsible for coming up with the solution to the project requirements.
3) Reference Groups include those people that project teams must refer to in order to arrive at the right solution. They ensure that the solution will work.
4) Users are a broad group of people who benefit from the project solution. 

Tip: The Reference Group and some of the Project Team may also be classed as Users. This is often a very good idea.

So what exactly is stakeholder mapping?

Stakeholder mapping is a collaborative process of research, debate, and discussion that draws from multiple perspectives to determine a key list of stakeholders across the entire stakeholder spectrum.

Mapping can be broken down into four steps:

1) Identifying: listing relevant groups, organizations, and people
2) Analyzing: understanding stakeholder perspectives and interests
3) Mapping: visualizing relationships to objectives and other stakeholders
4) Prioritizing: ranking stakeholder relevance and identifying issues

The process of stakeholder mapping is as important as the result, and the quality of the process depends heavily on the knowledge of the people participating.

Tip: Gather a cross-functional group of internal participants to engage in this process. Identify sources external to the company who may have important knowledge about or perspective on the issues, and reach out to these sources for input and participation. Finally, identify a resource who can facilitate your work through the following activities. Capture all your work in writing to help with future steps.

So why should we do this?

The Stakeholder Mapping process will help you with the identification of the following:

- Stakeholder's interests
- Project success
- Effective communication plan
- Mechanisms to influence other stakeholders
- Potential risks
- Key people to be informed about the project during the execution phase
- Negative stakeholders as well as their adverse effects on the project

Step 1: Identifying

The first step in the mapping process is to understand that there is no magic list of stakeholders. The final list will depend on your business, its impacts, and your current project objectives—as a result, it should not remain static. This list will change as the environment around you evolves and as stakeholders themselves make decisions or change their opinions.

Tip: Brainstorm a list of stakeholders without screening, including everyone who has an interest in your objectives today and who may have one tomorrow. Where possible, identify individuals.

Step 2: Analyzing

Once you have identified a list of stakeholders, it is useful to do further analysis to better understand their relevance and the perspective they offer, to understand their relationship to the project and each other, and to prioritize based on their relative importance for this project. You can use the following list of criteria to help you analyze each identified stakeholder:

a) Stakeholder Type: Sponsor, Project Team, Reference Group or User.

b) Contribution (value): Does the stakeholder have information, counsel, or expertise that could be helpful to the project?

c) Legitimacy: How legitimate is the stakeholder’s claim for engagement?

d) Willingness to engage: How willing is the stakeholder to engage?

e) Influence: How much influence does the stakeholder have? (You will need to clarify “who” they influence, e.g., other stakeholders, teams, departments, investors, clients, etc.)

f) Involvement: Is this someone who could derail or delegitimize the process if they were not included in the project?

Tip: Use these six criteria to create and populate a spreadsheet table with short descriptions of how stakeholders fulfill them. Assign values (low, medium, or high) to these stakeholders. This first data set will help you decide which stakeholders to engage.

Step 3: Mapping

Mapping stakeholders is a visual exercise and analysis tool that you can use to further determine which stakeholders are most essential to engage with. Mapping allows you to see where stakeholders stand when evaluated by the same key criteria and compared to each other and help you visualize the often complex interplay of issues and relationships created in the criteria chart above.

a) Draw the stakeholder map with two axes. The x-axis represents the spectrum of dispositions toward your change project; from "Against" at one extreme - to "For" at the other. The y-axis represents the spectrum of involvement from high at the top to none at the bottom.


b) The group discusses each stakeholder, in turn, determining their location on the map by rating their relative sentiment towards your project and the degree to which they are actively involved in it (use the example sentiment slide below to help you decide where each should sit).


c) The example below illustrates some typical stakeholder sentiments towards a school change initiative. Ideally, you would want everyone to be at the top right-hand corner - actively involved and championing your project! But in reality that is not going to happen. This example shows a broad landscape of diverging sentiment and involvement that is more typical.


d) The last step in the mapping exercise is to add a final dimension: this is the relationships that exist between stakeholders.


e) Draw lines that connect two stakeholders in your map where a relationship currently exists. The thickness of the line can indicate your rating of the relative strength of that relationship - the closer the relationship, the thicker the line. This represents another aspect of the underlying political situation and is helpful to know.

f) In the effort to shift dispositions to a more favorable situation you might want to exploit the relationship that exists, say, between a strong supporter of your project and someone else who remains skeptical or even cynical.

Tips:
- It is wise to know the sentiment of each of the broad groups of stakeholders towards your project. Are they actively supportive, or unsure, skeptical or even against the project? Stakeholder mapping illustrates these sentiments - so that you can determine what action you need to take in order to shift unfavorable sentiments more positively.
- The size of the circle is an important dimension to the success of your project. You want the most influential stakeholders on the right of your map and migrating to the top so if they're not you need to work out a way to get them there.
- Note that relationships can be negative as well as positive. The assumption can be that all relationships are positive ones. If you think it is relevant, you might want to illustrate a negative relationship with a broken line.
- Be careful, because stakeholder maps can contain the identities of individuals. Never print or leave your map lying around. The data in your stakeholder map represents your perceptions about other people - and they may not necessarily agree with you! So it is wise to keep this sensitive information very confidential.

Note: This is just an illustrative mapping example, and your approach may vary depending on your needs: You may need to use more or less criteria in "Analysis" depending on the mix of your stakeholder list; more ambitious objectives may require a more strategic, detailed Mapping; and your process may be influenced by outside variables such as tools and frameworks already in place at your company. Look closely at your needs and decide whether this example will work for you as is.

Step 4: Prioritizing stakeholders and identifying issues

It is not practical and usually not necessary to engage with all stakeholder groups with the same level of intensity all of the time. Being strategic and clear about whom you are engaging with and why, before jumping in, can help save both time and money.

An often used base strategy for stakeholder management based on the information you collected in the previous steps (influence and interest) is the following:


Tip: Look closely at stakeholder issues and decide whether they are material to your project objectives, asking yourself the following questions:

- What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of your work? Is it positive or negative?
- What motivates them most of all?
- What information do they want from you?
- How do they want to receive information from you? What is the best way of communicating your message to them?
- What is their current opinion of your work? Is it based on good information?
- Who influences their opinions generally, and who influences their opinion of you? Do some of these influencers, therefore, become important stakeholders in their own right?
- If they are not likely to be positive, what will win them around to support your project?
- If you don't think you will be able to win them around, how will you manage their opposition?
- Who else might be influenced by their opinions? Do these people become stakeholders in their own right?

A very good way of answering these questions is to talk to your stakeholders directly - people are often quite open about their views, and asking people's opinions is often the first step in building a successful relationship with them.

Combined with your criteria table and different mappings, use issue materiality to rank your stakeholders into a prioritized engagement list. You should now have captured the most relevant issues and the most relevant stakeholders.
Posted on Monday, March 12, 2018 by Henrico Dolfing

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