In the early 1990s Boeing recognised the need for a new twin-engined long-range airliner to slot in its range just below the 747 jumbo jet. This became the Boeing 777. To get it right they had to consult and work with a wide range of people inside and outside the aerospace industry. At the same time they needed to work with their employees and suppliers to get the plane into the air quickly to counter competition from Airbus and manufacture it as efficiently as possible. How did they identify and work with their stakeholders to do this?
A stakeholder is any person or group that has a conscious interest in the conduct of the project, the output from the project or the eventual outcome which the project output is expected to produce. Internal stakeholders are directly involved with the project; external stakeholders are not but have an interest. No project can guarantee that all stakeholders will ultimately be happy, but reasonable efforts should be made to ensure that they are at least content. The sponsor is a person (or at most a small group) that is the customer for the project output. End-users should ideally be involved in specifying and creating the output so it is most effective in use. Key players among stakeholders must be identified. These are the people who have a close interest in the project and wield the most influence over it, including the main decision makers. It is on this group that most of the stakeholder engagement effort should be directed, aiming to build the maximum awareness and support among them. It is also worth considering what motivates each stakeholder to be interested in the project, so the way they are engaged with responds in some way to that motivation.
There are lots of ways to classify stakeholders. One is to consider how much a particular stakeholder is aware of the project and how much they support it, and plot that on a matrix like the one below.
Another is to consider the level of interest stakeholders have in the project and how much influence they wield, which can be plotted on another familiar matrix. As I said earlier the group with high interest and high influence I call the key players.
Within any any group of stakeholders it is likely that people will have different attitudes towards the project. What is revealing is to overlay one matrix on top of the other.
And then zoom in on the key players.
The ultimate aim is to get as many key players into the ‘aware and support’ quadrant as possible, and encourage them to convince people in the other quadrants of the merits of the project to join them. Hardest of the lot will be the ‘aware and oppose’ group, but if stakeholder engagement is successful, they will be marginalised to the point where there are overwhelmed by the general support for the project among other key players.
Clearly getting stakeholders on side requires not just rational argument, but skills of persuasion, negotiation and even sometimes a little guile!
Glancey, J. (2015). Concorde – the rise and fall of the supersonic airliner. London: Atlantic Books. Sabbagh, K. (1996). 21st century jet – the making of the Boeing 777. London: Pan Books. Stakeholder diagrams derived from: McElroy B. & Mills C. (2000) Managing Stakeholders, in Turner, R. (Ed.) (2007). Handbook of project management. Aldershot: Gower. Mendelow, A. (1991). Proceedings of 2nd International Conference on Information Systems, Cambridge, Mass.
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