Having a list of stakeholders is a good start; but to get a sense of the priorities, you need to understand their position relative to your Influencing Goal and to each other. That way you can begin to see the bigger picture and develop a clear strategy to accelerate towards your goal.
Using the Stakeholder Influence Map (below), the general idea is that you plot the name of each (impactful) stakeholder based on where you think they are in terms of agreement with your Influencing Goal and also the quality of the relationship you have with them (it is the relationship assessment which makes my approach to stakeholder mapping different from most other models).
Please note that we are using these titles to deliberately provoke your thinking, not to label people. You have your views and part of the fun of this stake is to really stretch your thinking.
For each individual, you need to make a quick assessment of where to position them on the map. It is not critical that you have precise answers, sometimes gut feeling is all you can go on.
- Assessing the Relationship Dimension.
- Assessing the Agreement Dimension.
- If you are struggling to find enough people, take a look at How to Identify Your Stakeholders.
The more you use this technique, the quicker it will become; and as you keep it under review, initial assessments will become more accurate as people start to move around the map.
Understanding the boxes
- Advocates are people whom you have a great relationship with, are on your side and really want you to succeed. You are likely to be close to them. Line managers often go here.
- Critics are individuals whom you have a good, open relationship with, but are perhaps your devil’s advocate. They can see the flaws in what you are trying to achieve. They are great at pressure testing your goals and plans.
- Players are people who will agree to do something in a meeting, but then fail to follow through. They say yes and do no. Often the problem is that they are not being straight with you; or perhaps their intention was good, but after the meeting someone else influenced them differently.
- Enemies are clearly against you achieving your goal, but you can’t quite work out what they will do next to stop you. Loose cannons is another phrase which springs to mind.
These titles have been chosen deliberately to be provocative and to stretch your thinking. I regularly hear people in workshops saying things like “to call them an Enemy is a bit strong” when they are coaching each other. That’s just what I want to hear because in the process the individual is really challenging their thinking hard and avoiding complacency. You would be wise to avoid using these labels when talking to your stakeholders if they are unfamiliar with the Stakeholder Influence Process. They will not understand the purpose of these labels and may get a little concerned about the way you are thinking! Just in case, give them a copy of this book and generate greater advocacy!
At least initially, your analysis is only hypothetical. It will guide and stimulate your action. Just because you pop someone into the Enemies box doesn’t mean they will stay there on closer inspection, nor that they are your greatest foe and are out to get you! Hopefully, once you understand each other better, they’ll quickly shift into another box.
Challenging Your Assessment
Once you have the names in the boxes, taking each person in turn, ask yourself the following questions…
- What evidence is there that the stakeholder agrees with you?
- What have they done to actively support you lately?
- Exactly what will they lose if you are successful?
- What is it about the relationship that makes you want to put them in that box?
- How strong is the trust between you?
- What can’t you trust them with? What can you trust them with?
- Why do they trust you?
- Is the relationship quite open and is contact frequent?
It really helps if you can work through this with a friend who knows a little about your situation; however, this will probably take more than an hour as they will be asking lots of questions to challenge your thinking!
Before closing on this step, there are a few additional things to bear in mind which may be helpful…
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the first mapping needs to be reviewed after you’ve taken action. You’ll learn lots and much will change, so re-evaluate the mapping soon.
- If you’re thinking that one of your stakeholders could fit into two boxes – they can’t. They must fit into one box, or between the boxes. If you want to put them into two, it may be a lack of clarity on what you are trying to influence – your Influencing Goal.
- Use a different stakeholder map for each goal you are focusing on. Although the names of your stakeholders could be the same, their position may vary.
- If, because of your goal, you have been mapping groups rather than individuals, at some stage you may want to generate an additional focus (and a new map) for each specific group you need to influence. That way you can break up the group and look for the opportunities to influence individuals within each group.
- I cannot tell you how much benefit you will gain from talking this through with a friend, your boss or even your stakeholders. With the clients I have worked with the benefit has been huge – so give it a go when you’re ready.
- Don’t agonise over your assessment here – if you find yourself struggling to put pen to paper, do it quickly, take some action and review it later.
- And one word of caution – be careful where you leave your map!
Finally, please remember that the whole point of this part of the process is to quickly get you thinking about practical actions you can start to take in order to move things forward. Often when I’m challenging someone with their map in front of them, they discover critical new ideas that can accelerate their progress within 10 minutes!