There are only two types of stakeholders

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

I’m sure that many of you read that headline and wondered whether I really meant that there are only two types of stakeholders. I do. They are:

  • Stakeholders that you identify.
  • Stakeholders that you don’t identify.

From a stakeholder management perspective, it is important to identify all stakeholders in a project, but like me, you can probably think of situations where you haven’t identified everyone involved at the beginning.

One group of stakeholders that are often missed out are those people who believe they should be involved, even though you know that they need not be involved.

As project managers, we frequently use the interest/influence matrix to map the relative interest in the project and the influence (power) that the individual or group has over the project.

But stakeholders are not just people who can influence your project, or who might be affected by it. They are also people who think they can influence the project (or you) or who think they might be impacted.

This group can be difficult to manage – if you identify that they need managing at all.  It can involve setting expectations carefully to ensure that they realise their scope of influence and control. And having some difficult conversations with them around the fact that they won’t be impacted by the project. (Some of them may be relieved by this – others will be annoyed that they are being left out.)

Failing to identify stakeholders isn’t unusual, and it isn’t the end of the world. Quickly add them into your stakeholder management plan and make sure that you spend the appropriate amount of time with them as soon as you realise. The aim should be to have all stakeholders fall into the group of ‘stakeholders that you identify’ and nobody falling between the cracks.

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