Many organisations and teams engaged in stakeholder management activities think they can choose the stakeholders for their activity. Whilst it is completely true that the team can decide who to record in their stakeholder register, this does not define or limit the actual stakeholders.
Your stakeholder’s choose you!
People who perceive your project as a threat to them will act to oppose the work. The threat does not need to be ‘real’ or ‘reasonable’; only perceived to be real or reasonable by the stakeholder. Their perceptions are their reality, and you have to deal with them.
In many respects, stakeholders are similar to risks (and often the stakeholder’s are risks). Neither the Risk Register nor the Stakeholder Register can prevent unlisted risks or stakeholders impacting the work of the project.
Effective stakeholder management requires a regular scanning of the project environment to assess the current attitude and importance of the known stakeholder community and identify any new or emerging stakeholders. The relationship between stakeholders and the team is built on human emotions and is never static:
trust and support need to be maintained;
opposition needs to be mitigated;
fear of the unknown needs to be reduced by targeted information flows.
The only tool you have to use is effective communication and you cannot communicate effectively with unidentified stakeholders. They are there, they are real and unmanaged can cause major surprises.
Business rules that define stakeholders as being ‘only’ internal to the organisation, or only external (or ‘only anything’) are less than helpful. Stakeholders are:
Individuals or groups who will be impacted by, or can influence the success or failure of an organisation’s activities.
This definition includes everything from small internal projects to major CSR initiatives and spans the work of the activity and the success or failure of its output/outcome.
Keeping track of every potential stakeholder and then managing them all is nearly impossible. Teams need to have processes and methodologies such as the Stakeholder Circle® that allow them to identify the important stakeholders at ‘this point in time’ and then focus their limited resources for maximum effect.
So next time someone tells you (insert name here) is not a stakeholder, you may want to think again.