When Projects don’t happen, or Stakeholder Analysis meets the Pareto Principle

First appeared in ‘CEO Refresher’ (U.S.A.)

So, you’ve spent six months on a project. You’ve developed it perfectly. It’s neat, clearly labelled, signed off. It looks great on paper. So why isn’t anything happening?

Get together half a dozen or so colleagues and run this simple exercise.

Look at your key stakeholders. In terms of this project who are they? Write the name of each one on a post-it. They could be the press, your senior management team, the staff, whoever. Jot all the groups or individuals who have a stake in your project on a separate postit note. There may well be differences of opinion in your team as to who the key stakeholders are. If that’s the case my guess is that everyone’s right and include all of them.

Draw the following grid on a flipchart.

HIGH

^

| (Section A) (Section B)

|

Influence
|

|

| (Section C) (Section D)

|

|

LOW ———- commitment ————–> HIGH

Look at each postit in turn. How would you assess that stakeholder’s influence and commitment? For instance if the HR Department has a high influence in the success of the project, but a low commitment to the project they would be placed in Section A.

Plot these stakeholders – discuss – disagree – why do you see it differently from others? There will be some valuable lessons here for you. Take some notes.

Finally you’ll have some agreement. No doubt you’ll have stakeholders scattered throughout the grid. Now comes the fun part.

Look at the stakeholders in Sections C and D. Take each postit off the chart, crumple it into a ball and throw it away. Unless you have unlimited resources – chuck these postits away – really. And forget about them until the next time you run this exercise. Really! You have not the time or energy to deal with these groups. So remove them from your mind.

Next, look at Section B – high in influence and high in commitment – leave them alone. Keep them sweet yes – but again, you can’t afford to expend your energy on these people. They are basically OK. They’re on your side. Don’t upset them!

You’ve Section A left. These are your targets. Go for them in a big way. Develop strategies to move them into Section B. Look after them. Talk to them – ask them what their concerns are. Address these problems. This is where 80% of your effort must come.

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