The Keys to Effective Stakeholder Management

Stakeholders have the ability to make or break projects, if they put their minds to it.

This makes them a risk to the likelihood of completing the project. The stakeholders of any project should be pinpointed, understood, and managed to increase project success. In this article we will look at who stakeholders are and their interests to understand and manage them effectively. To give a project the greatest chance of succeeding.

Identifying Stakeholders

We can define a stakeholder as a person or group with interest (or a “stake”) in the project or programme. Within the organization, they might include the board, senior managers, different teams, internal customers and staff. Externally, they could consist of customers, suppliers, the media, local or national government, lobby groups, the community, and different agencies. One useful method in knowing the stakeholders at any given project is to brainstorm.

What are Stakeholders’ Interests?

Stakeholders may have interests in projects for various reasons, depending on who they are and their relationship to the project.

In several cases, financial motivation can be an interest. For example, they find IT automation project succeeding interesting because it reduces costs for the organisation. Alternatively, a customer will have an interest in the project not overrunning on budget.

In some cases, operational interests may have a role to play, especially concerning time. Projects that impact the public or local environment may interest media and community groups in some way— building a supermarket or a bypass road for example.

Stakeholder interests might include employees who may resist change as well. As a result of them not being consulted in any way. Resistance to change can be one of the most detrimental factors impacting on the ability for the project to succeed.

Understanding Stakeholders to Better Manage Them

Best practice stakeholder management requires understanding the interest that stakeholders have in a project, and their power. Usually, you may categorize stakeholders as either high/ low interest and high/low power.

This categorization of the different stakeholders helps guide how you should work and engage with them effectively on the project.

For instance, stakeholders with a high level of interest but a low level of power. These should be managed differently from those with high power and high interest. In this case, high power with low interest groups need to have an eye kept on them as they can significantly influence a project’s success if it sparks their interest.

The most important stakeholders from a stakeholder management perspective are those that have high interest and high power. These groups may be considered key stakeholders, and they need to be carefully managed to drive the success of the project. They can help the project succeed, however, they can also bring it down if they are not engaged. Key stakeholders will vary depending on the type of project. At the same time, in business, they will typically include the business owner who is eager for project success and possibly the board. In public projects the government or local council may very well be a key stakeholder.

On the other hand, some stakeholders may have high interest and low power therefore, they might not be considered a threat. They still need to be consulted, and their interests managed. Stakeholder groups can combine to become more powerful as well. Like community groups working with the media to influence the government.

Managing Stakeholders Effectively

Good stakeholder management is a function of leadership. Stakeholders need to understand what is going on and why, and they need to see projects moving forward with purpose and adding value. Being clear about the vision and direction helps a great deal. Ask yourself what it is that stakeholders want. This will help you present messages to them that will be helpful in explaining how you are delivering that to them.

One of the main tools that a programme or project manager can use to effectively work with stakeholders is communicating well with them. This means building relationships and discussing their needs with them. Any communication should be two-way— talking and listening. Through consulting with stakeholders it is possible to develop solutions that will be palatable to the widest number of stakeholders. Communication needs to be regular to keep stakeholders up to date on aspects of the project that are of particular interest. Stakeholders commonly complain of not being kept up to date, which is easily rectified with good communication..

Other members of the project are also another tool. They need to show consistency in how they work with stakeholders to build trust. Employees working on the project are all key representatives in the eyes of the stakeholders. The bottom line is that building and maintaining relationships is critical to effective stakeholder management. Keeping in touch with stakeholders throughout the project, monitoring their power and interest, and ensuring that most are kept satisfied as far as possible will give the project the highest chances of achieving its goals and delivering value.


The reality of project management is that some stakeholders will have the capability to influence whether a project can succeed or not. It means that a key component of a project or programme manager’s job is to understand stakeholder needs, work with them effectively, build relationships, and manage issues to ensure that they stay on the side. Understanding a stakeholder’s level of interest and power concerning the project helps shape how the project manager manages the situation with the stakeholder. In short, communication and building trust are essential tools in effective stakeholder management.

Until next time, you are up to date.

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