To finish the positioning of your stakeholder, you also need to consider the degree of positive or negative agreement the individual has that you should successfully achieve your goal. Three aspects will help you weigh up where you should position them…
- Interest. What will they get when you have successfully achieved your goal? If it will help them to solve some of their problems or make them money, they are going to go nicely into the top half of the map. Alternatively, if you are going to make their life more difficult, or maybe even jeopardise their job or promotion prospects, they will be heading for the bottom half (interest can be negative as well as positive).
- Agreement. Do they agree with what you are trying to achieve? If they think that your goal should be achieved, even if they don’t personally benefit, then they are likely to be quite helpful and you’ll be placing them in the top half. Similarly, they may be in line for benefits, but perhaps they can see a wider and negative impact on the overall organisation, which could mean they disagree. Or perhaps they can see even bigger benefits arising from someone else’s project!
- Activity. Are they actively supporting you, helping you to clear through the issues and roadblocks? Activity is often an indicator of their agreement and perceived benefit. Of course, they may be very active trying to stop you in your tracks, but not for long we hope.
Depending on the situation you are working on, it may be easier to focus the agreement consideration on your primary goal rather than your Influencing Goal. Do whichever feels right, but make sure to be consistent in your approach with all stakeholders so they are all mapped with the same kind of consideration.
A good way to break down and analyse each stakeholder’s degree of interest is to use the diagram below. The idea here is that this is your assessment of where they stand in terms of benefit – an interesting additional question would be where do you think they would place themselves if asked!
The rows are referring to whether or not you think they are aware of the degree to which they are going to win or lose. At risk of confusing things a little, it is entirely possible to have an individual who is a big winner (in your eyes) who knows they may win a little, so he/she could be placed in two boxes. At the end of the day, don’t try to stretch this into a precision tool; a basic gut-feeling approach is all that is needed here.
It is on the Agreement dimension which you will start to gain real progress if you have been able to be very focused with your goal. If it is crystal clear what you are aiming to achieve, it is much easier to determine if an individual is in agreement with you. Even so, on the first time around the Stakeholder Influence Process, you may be unclear as to their position because the greater clarity you achieved earlier in the process was the result of fresh thinking – in which case stakeholders will be landing in between the boxes. It is important to remove as much of the uncertainty as soon as possible, particularly with highly impactful stakeholders.
So, if there is firm evidence that an individual is agreeing that your goal should be achieved, that there are benefits for them and they are actively working on your behalf, write their name in the upper half of the map level with where you have assessed the relationship. Evidence to the contrary means they are likely to land in the bottom half. Similarly, if there is mixed evidence, they’ll be in the grey zone.