Advanced Stakeholder Engagement

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Location:  PMKIStakeholder Management > Advanced Stakeholder Engagement. 
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Projects are managed by people, for people and everyone involved is a stakeholder. This subject moves beyond the basics to look at how organizations can build stakeholder engagement into their DNA and create a successful, sustainable outcome..

Topics included in Advanced Stakeholder Engagement:

- Stakeholder Overview, Theory and Research
   - ESEI Stakeholder Engagement
- Defining & Identifying Stakeholders
- Stakeholders and Success
- Analyzing Stakeholders
- Engaging Stakeholders
   - Overview
   - Internal Senior
   - Internal Teams & Colleagues
   - External
- Useful External Web-links & Resources.

Other related sections of the PMKI:

- Communication Management: communication in a project management context.

Stakeholder Overview, Theory and Research

Stakeholder Resources
Stakeholder Circle Tools

A stakeholder is an individual, group or organization that:

  • May affect a decision, activity or outcome of the project
  • May be affected by a decision, activity or outcome of the project
  • May perceive themselves to be affected by a decision, activity or outcome of the project.

This definition breaks down into stakeholders being:

  • Individual people, a group of people acting together, or an organization
  • Who are actively involved in the project, or
  • Whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by a decision, activity or outcome of the project (either in reality or in their perceptions), and
  • They may exert influence, or seek to exert influence, over the work of the project or its deliverables.

Project Stakeholder Management focuses on understanding the key concepts and benefits of stakeholder engagement and the relationship between stakeholder satisfaction and project success. To achieve this objective, the project teem need to :

  • Be able to recognize key stakeholders, their roles and needs
  • Understand that stakeholders define project success or failure
  • Be able to apply the tools and techniques used to identify stakeholders and understand their expectations
  • Understand that all of the resources needed by the project are provided by stakeholders
  • Understand the importance of planning stakeholder engagement and then maintaining the plan through the life of the project
  • Be able to classify and prioritize stakeholders to facilitate effective engagement
  • Understand the link between project communication and stakeholder engagement, and appreciate the critical role of effective communication in the management of stakeholders
  • Be able to apply effective tools and techniques to monitor stakeholder attitudes and maintain support for the project.

The concept of stakeholders seems to have emerged initially in the systems analysis work on organizations conducted by researchers at the Tavistock Institute in London in the late 1960s and early 70s. Since then, both the concept and the spread of people and organizations covered by the term ‘stakeholder’ seem to have expanded and evolved and are continuing to change.  Project success and failure is directly related to its stakeholders' perceptions of the value created by the project and the nature of their relationship with the project team. This is strongly influenced by both the expectations and perceptions of its stakeholders, and the capability and willingness of project managers to manage these factors and effectively engage with the organization's politics.

A stakeholder management methodology and visualization tool, the Stakeholder Circle®, was developed to assist in this process. The Stakeholder Circle® is based on the premise that a project can only exist with the informed consent of its stakeholder community. The methodology supported by the tool provides an effective mechanism for assessing the relative influence of a project's stakeholders, understanding their expectations and defining appropriate engagement procedures to influence the key stakeholders expectations and perceptions to the benefit of the project. See more on the Stakeholder Circle® methodology.

Our research was designed to improve a project's chances for success by identifying ways to develop effective relationships with these key stakeholders, and through refinement and testing of the Stakeholder Circle®, develop an effective way to provide support for the project manger and project team to build and maintain relationships with the right stakeholders at the right time. See more on Dr. Lynda Bourne's research thesis.

The project team benefits from use of the Stakeholder Circle®, or another effective methodology, through engaging in the sharing knowledge about each of the stakeholders, and through the act of negotiating for agreement on the relative importance of each stakeholder which helps build team relationships. These experiences contribute to the growth of the project team members. And their organizations benefit from the increased awareness of the project team members of the importance of project relationship management and knowledge of how to achieve it. An additional benefit will arise from a decrease in failed projects with the consequential decrease in wasted funds and resources. We believe the approach to project relationship management in the form of the theory implicit in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology and visualization tool will increase the value of projects to organizations, and their continuing success will improve the reputation of the project management profession.

This page focuses on the general concepts of stakeholder engagement including:
- ESEI Stakeholder Engagement
- Defining & Identifying Stakeholders
- Stakeholders and Success
- Analyzing Stakeholders
- Engaging Stakeholders
   - Overview
   - Internal Senior
   - Internal Teams & Colleagues
   - External

Click through to pages focused on:
- The Stakeholder Circle® methodology and tools
- Dr. Lynda Bourne's thesis on stakeholder engagement
- The Stakeholder Relationship Maturity Model (SRMM®)


Core Stakeholder Engagement Papers

PP: Project Relationship Management and the Stakeholder Circle. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Project Management (DPM). Dr Lynda Bourne investigated the concept that a project’s success or failure is closely aligned with perceptions of the project held by its key stakeholders; and that project teams can manage these perceptions to create success. The research resulted in a new tool, the ‘Stakeholder Circle®’ that maps each stakeholder community in a unique way, allowing the project team to effectively focus its stakeholder engagement strategies.
Read the Abstract on-line.

PP: Practice Note: Advancing theory and practice for successful implementation of Stakeholder Management in organizations. This paper firstly, describes the evolution of the Stakeholder Circle® from a research tool into a commercial project management tool and then into a maturity model (SRMM®) that describes the ‘readiness’ of an organization to successfully implement a stakeholder management culture and practice.

PP: The Knowledge Management / Relationship Cycle. The Knowledge Management Relationship Cycle describes reciprocity between the data, information and knowledge that is exchanged for the business benefit of the organization between the project and its stakeholders. It charts the strong connections between the organization's KM and the actions of the project Stakeholders in contributing to project success. Click through for more on knowledge management

PP: Beyond Conventional Stakeholder Management. The lack of effective engagement with stakeholders is a well acknowledged cause of program failure and stakeholder management is increasingly, as such, recognized as an important discipline. There are many tools and techniques already available (including the Stakeholder Circle) but to be effective, they need to be supported by the right attitudes. This paper describes PRIME Intelligence© and discusses how programs can develop PRIME Intelligence to enthuse a successful attitude across a program team. PRIME Intelligence© has been developed by Moorhouse Consulting Ltd. (UK) to help organizations improve their project and program outcomes and focuses on the 'right brain' attributes needed for successful stakeholder engagement.


The Changing Role of a Project/Program Manager

Dimensions of ManagementProject management is a relatively recent professional discipline. It initially developed out of the construction and defence industry’s need to plan, control and manage large, complex series of activities (projects) to produce for example, a hospital, a bridge or a battleship. From these endeavours arose the ‘hard’ skills, and the most commonly accepted project success criteria such as schedule, cost, scope and quality management.

However, project management can also be seen as being about managing change, and project managers should be considered as change agents. This is a particularly relevant view when considering non-traditional, non-construction projects such as those in the sphere of IT or business process change. Successful completion of the project deliverables depends on effectively using both the ‘hard’ skills (time, cost, scope - 1st Dimension) and the ‘soft’ skills (relationship management - 2nd Dimension) throughout the project lifecycle to fully address stakeholder expectations. Soft skills are required to facilitate the application of hard skills because it is people who realize projects, not techniques or hardware.

Project management does not occur in a vacuum. It requires an infusion of enthusiasm and commitment powered by the full range of project stakeholder energy sources, particularly from project management colleagues, that can be tapped much like connecting to an energy grid. The key is knowing how and when to connect to this organizational grid and identifying who the key connectors (stakeholders) should be. Without attention to the needs and expectations of a diverse range of project stakeholders, a project will probably not be regarded as successful even if the project manager was able to stay within its original time, budget and scope parameters.

PP: Advancing Project Management in Learning Organizations. This paper describes the 'third dimension skills', beyond the traditional 'hard' and 'soft' skills, needed by project managers to successfully deliver projects in large organizations. The paper then considers how project managers might achieve competence in managing the 'third dimension' both through individual effort and with the support of a learning organization.
This paper expands on 'Tapping the Powerlines' below.

PP: Tapping the Power Lines (how to connect to this organizational influence grid). Successful completion of project deliverables depends on project management of both ‘hard’ skills (time, cost, scope—1st Dimension) and ‘soft’ skills (relationship management—2nd Dimension) throughout the project life cycle to achieve project objectives that fully address stakeholder expectations.

PP: The Accidental Project Manager – The Getting of Wisdom. The accidental project manager has lived in the folklore of business projects for a generation. This paper will discuss ways to help them increase their chances of achieving project success, including a description of the project management skills and tools needed for success including the Stakeholder Circle.

PP: The future of the PM Hero. The PM’s role is changing from a hero focused on the ‘iron triangle’ to a business leader. Project success is no longer being measured simply in terms of time and cost, but by value created and stakeholder satisfaction. This paper outlines the skills needed to succeed in this emerging environment.

The ESEI Stakeholder Management Series.

Stakeholder EngagementThe ESEI (pronounced easy) series of 14 articles provides an overview of effective stakeholder engagement and an introduction to stakeholder theory. It is designed as a starting point for people interested in developing stakeholder management and stakeholder engagement skills. The articles maps out the key components of the ESEI stakeholder management approach and show how they support: Ed Freeman’s ‘Stakeholder Theory’, an organizations commitment to both the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and ISO 26000, and offer a cost effective way to enhance the probability of project, program and organizational success.

Art: ESEI Stakeholder Management Introduction. Using the Effective Stakeholder Engagement Initiative (ESEI™ - pronounced easy) is probably the quickest way to create an organizational culture focused on achieving success based on mutually beneficial stakeholder engagement

Art: Stakeholder Theory. ‘Stakeholder theory’ is a specific approach to recognizing and dealing with stakeholders, based on the concept of stakeholder developed by Ed Freeman.

Art: Why effective stakeholder management is free. Stakeholder engagement is not an overhead and it is not discretionary! It is impossible to deliver a successful project without effectively engaging with your stakeholder community.

Art: Stakeholders and Risk. Successful risk management requires effective stakeholder management and the stakeholder’s perceptions of project success or failure is intrinsically linked to effective risk management. (republished in Russian: Project and Program Management Journal
   Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 212-217 - download the article)

Art: Stakeholder Identification and Prioritization. ESEI stakeholder management benefits from knowing who is in the community, understanding who is important, and deciding what do you need to do craft a successful outcome.

Art: Understanding and visualizing your stakeholder community. Making effective use of stakeholder data requires its transformation into information that can be used to support decision making and action.

Art: Assess Your Stakeholders’ Attitudes. Successful project delivery is helped when stakeholders have the right attitude towards you and your work.

Art: Monitoring the ‘health’ of your stakeholder community. You need to measure the effectiveness of your communications, make adjustments as needed, and also look for the emergence of unexpected changes in the stakeholder community.

Art: The three types of stakeholder communication. A strategic approach to communication using the three general classes of communication; reporting, project relations and directed communication at the right times, to influence the right stakeholders in the best way to achieving a successful outcome.

Art: Communication planning. Communication planning is an essential element in crafting a communication strategy that will work to support the success of the project.

Comms PlanOur Communication Worksheet is a practical Excel template for establishing and monitoring the routine reporting and communication requirements of a project or program (see more).

Art: Communicating for effect. Every communication should be focused on achieving a desired effect on the person’s attitude or behaviour.

Art: Stakeholder Management is no longer optional. In many situations effective stakeholder management is becoming a mandated necessity.

Art: The SRMM® model for stakeholder management maturity and governance. The Stakeholder Relationship Maturity Model (SRMM®) has been designed to facilitate the transition of an organization to their desired level of stakeholder engagement capability and maturity in a structured way.

Art: ESEI Stakeholder Management Conclusion. This series offers a tested framework to create an organizational culture focused on achieving success based on mutually beneficial stakeholder engagement.



Defining & Identifying Stakeholders

StakeholdersPP: The Stakeholder Chameleon – Ignore at your Peril! This paper presents results from two case studies that clearly indicate that the strategies needed to engage project stakeholder support are different for every project, even when the stakeholders are the same people. The case studies examine a construction project and an ICT project undertaken within the same organization that effected the working environment of a common group of people, using the Stakeholder Circle to identify, prioritize and visualize the relative stakeholder influence. The results of the analysis showed significant differences in the processes needed to manage the respective groups. Based in the information, the project teams recognized they needed to adopt significantly different strategies to achieve stakeholder engagement, leading to stakeholder satisfaction and successful project outcomes.

Prs: Seeing who's there - A Brief History of Stakeholder Mapping & Visualization. Given project managers are required to identify and manage stakeholders (PMBOK® Guide 2008 onward) it is helpful to understand where the concept came from and what it represents, so as to ground decisions being made today, and anticipate likely stakeholder management demands in the future.This paper focuses on describing the evolution of the concept of stakeholders from the 1970s through to the present day and the closely allied visualization tools used at different times to see ‘who they are’. From this basis a current definition of stakeholders is determined and the merits of a range of current stakeholder management tools briefly described. The paper demonstrates that understanding ‘who’s there’ and more importantly ‘who matters’ is highly dependent on the tools and definitions used.

Blg: Key Stakeholders. Key Stakeholders are defined as a subset of Stakeholders who, if their support were to be withdrawn, would cause the project to fail.

Art: Key Stakeholders. Defining the difference between a key stakeholder and an important stakeholder.

Blg: Value is in the eye of the stakeholder.The link between stakeholders and the perception of value.



Stakeholders and Success

StakeholdersCan a project be ‘on time’, ‘on budget’ and a failure despite delivering 100% of its scope? The short answer is yes!  But it is also possible for a project to be over budget, over time, missing scope and an iconic success. This papers in this section demonstrate that delivering value (time, cost and scope) is only one aspect of success. The other two elements are managing stakeholder perceptions, founded on robust and effective relationships; and managing the project’s risk profile to avoid alienating key stakeholders by exceeding their risk tolerance threshold.

The foundation of modern project management was the ‘iron triangle’ of time, cost and outputs. The project manager’s traditional role has been to balance these elements to deliver the specified output (scope and quality), ‘on time’ and ‘on budget’. But often this is not enough. A successful project is perceived to be successful by its stakeholders; and their perceptions are a hidden and variable state of mind. To be recognized as successful, the project team needs to engage with their key stakeholders and, understand their wants, needs and expectations. If the project is not meeting these perceived requirements something needs to change. The change could be in the perceptions of the stakeholders, achieved by effective communications, or by changing the project so it delivers an output that is relevant and needed. The ‘right’ output meets the needs of the project’s stakeholders, as they understand them, and is delivered in a way that stays within their acceptable levels of risk.

WP: Valuing Stakeholder Management  Stakeholder Engagement is free! This White Paper sets out the zero cost of stakeholder relationship management, based on the philosophy of the Quality movement that quality is free – investment in stakeholders is balanced by reduction in ‘failure dollars’ of fixing the issues caused by poor stakeholder relationship management. A properly equipped PMO is ideally placed to champion and facilitate this approach and provide not only support services to achieve this, but also assist in measuring ‘failure dollars’ through its reporting mechanisms.

PP: Avoiding the Successful Failure. Projects can be ‘on time and budget’ and fail! They can also be ‘over time and budget’ and succeed. This paper suggests projects are only perceived as successful when their stakeholder’s expectations are delivered. This paper will identify the three elements of ‘stakeholder expectations’: value, relationships and risk. Then describe tools to manage these elements for success.

Art: Success and Stakeholders. Success is ephemeral, it is gifted to you by your stakeholders, and you have to earn the gift, but there is no way of knowing for sure if it will be granted.

Prs: Effective Stakeholder Engagement for Project Success. This presentation outlines some practical actions that project managers must take to develop a reputation of credibility and competency through managing the relationship with senior stakeholders by influencing decisions, managing resistance to change, and providing a central support structure for stakeholder engagement practices. Research conducted over many decades has found that projects will only succeed with the involvement of executives, and with the engagement and support of other important stakeholders. Project managers must understand who their stakeholders are and who is important, and work to build and maintain robust relationships with these stakeholders through effective communication.

The presentation focuses on practical ways that project managers can apply and build these relationships and engage their stakeholders for the benefit of the project and covers the following topics:
-  What is communication really?
-  Some practical tips for successfully engaging stakeholders:
   -  Your managers - upwards
   -  The team - downwards
   -  External stakeholders and  Peers within the organization
-  How to implement stakeholder engagement practices with examples from various organizations.

PP: The Paradox of Project Control in a Matrix Organisation. This paper explores the hypothesis that, within complex matrix organizations, the ‘zone’ between the strategic vision set by senior management and the projects created to fulfil it, is a highly complex and dynamic organism that's reaction to stimuli cannot be predicted. Succeeding in this environment needs a different management paradigm from that developed for management in traditional project industries. The characteristics of a complex matrix organization include: multiple/competing lines of authority, virtual and partial/part time teams, divergent objectives, and many competing levels and types of authority. This paper describes the paradigm shift in management thinking needed to succeed in managing projects across this ‘zone’. To succeed, managers need to combine vigilance and agility to identify and capitalize on unexpected gains and deal with unexpected problems. 

PP: Mega Projects, Mega Problems - The critical need for effective stakeholder management. Effective stakeholder management is mandatory for mega-project success in all advanced economies and in most emerging economies. The ability of people to protest has increased exponentially with the advent of mobile communications and social media. In the 21st century, a single dedicated person can quickly generate a large protest movement. This applies equally to political, environmental and social movements, and mega-projects will inevitably create opposition. The larger the project, the more opponents it is likely to generate, as Spike Milligan is quoted to have said: Money can't buy you friends but you can get a better class of enemy. Traditional construction management has focused on the ‘iron triangle’ of time, cost and scope. Today, this is not enough, ignoring the social aspects of a mega-project will cause the project to fail! If the project is sufficiently controversial, the protest movement can quickly spread globally.

But, effective stakeholder management can contribute to a profitable project outcome. Within the project, stakeholder management encompasses the project team (workers, managers, clients and customers) and the project supply chain. Effective engagement with the ‘supply chain’ has been a focus of reports since the 1994 including Latham and Egan. External to the project stakeholder management encompasses politicians, ‘the public’ and the media as well as people directly or indirectly impacted by the work or its outcomes. Fortunately for both groups of stakeholders, including both the proponents of the project (supporters) and the opponents of the project, the art of stakeholder management remains the same. The key steps are:

  1. Identify all of the stakeholders that matter at this point in time – who’s who and who’s important. There are always too many potential stakeholders to attempt to manger everyone.
  2. Prioritize the stakeholders to see who is really important. For the important stakeholders assess their wants and expectations and understand what the project needs from them (mutuality).
  3. Develop specific communication plans for the key internal and external stakeholders. Develop general PR communications for the wider audience.
  4. Implement the communication plan(s).
  5. Reassess the stakeholder community at regular intervals to see what is working and what is not and adjust accordingly.

Communication within effective relationships is the only ethical way to change stakeholder perceptions and expectations to the benefit of the project. Supporters need to be encouraged, opponents need to be managed and their opposition minimized. The skill is focusing on the right people at the right time. Two tools developed to assist in this process are the Stakeholder Circle® methodology and the SRMM® maturity model. These tools are discussed within the framework of managing mega construction projects to optimize the stakeholder relationships in and around the project and minimize risk exposures.

PP: Supersizing PMO Performance. The value of a PMO to its host organization is directly linked to its ability to communicate effectively with both senior management and project teams, in an appropriate language. To facilitate access to the information it needs and to have its reports and messages understood and acted upon. By understanding its stakeholders and customizing its communication strategy to meet their different requirements, the PMO becomes a significantly more valuable resource. For more on PMOs see: PMOs (Project, Program or Portfolio Management Offices)
Chinese language version



Analyzing Stakeholders

WP: The Stakeholder Cycle. The effective management of a project’s stakeholders involves a continuous process of analysis and review for effective stakeholder engagement.

PP: A Typology of Operational Approaches for Stakeholder Analysis and Engagement.
SHM StudtStakeholder analysis and engagement are the main tasks in stakeholder management. To identify practical approaches and measure the effectiveness of the approaches for stakeholder analysis and engagement, six interviews and a questionnaire survey were conducted in Hong Kong, and fifteen interviews were held in Australia. A typology of approaches is proposed based on literature review, and these empirical studies. Two case studies were conducted to illustrate the selection and application of the approaches. Findings from this study show that the success of a particular stakeholder management technique depends on internal and external factors, such as the nature of the project, the resources in the organization, and the communication environment. Each approach has its strengths and limitations, so the best way to define a practical technique for effective stakeholder management is to use combinations of elements from each method as circumstances dictate.
Authors: Dr. Jing (Rebecca) Yang. Deakin University
Prof. Ping Qi (Geoffrey) Shen, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Dr. Lynda Bourne, Mosaic Project Services Pty Ltd
Christabel MF Ho & Dr. Xiaolong Xue

PP: Visualizing and Mapping Stakeholder Influence. This paper describes research that was conducted during 2004/2005 centred around the Stakeholder Circle tool. The Stakeholder Circle offers a useful and effective way to visualise stakeholder power and influence that may have pivotal impact on a project's success or failure. The Stakeholder Circle tool is developed for each project through a methodology that identifies and prioritises key project stakeholders and then develops an engagement strategy to build and maintain robust relationships with those key stakeholders.

Visualizing Stakeholder InfluencePP: Visualizing Stakeholder Influence - Two Australian Examples. This paper illustrates the use of the Stakeholder Circle as a tool for measuring and visualizing stakeholder influence drawing upon two case study examples. It is exploratory in nature and the case studies used provide a useful vehicle for reflection and sense making. Development of the Stakeholder Circle was based upon stakeholder and project management theory and it extends our appreciation of the potential impact that stakeholders may exert that unearths vital risk management and customer relationship implications for the project management profession. Using a case study and action learning approach, this paper draws upon emerging project management and wider strands of management decision-making literature. The results of the analysis showed significant differences in the processes needed to manage the respective groups. The project teams recognized they needed to adopt significantly different strategies to achieve stakeholder engagement, leading to stakeholder satisfaction and a successful project. The tool was found by the case study respondents to be useful and that it also complements and enhances risk management approaches.The  Stakeholder Circle can be of considerable use and we argue that it be required to cope with the complex issue of stakeholder engagement.

PP: Influence, Stakeholder Mapping and Visualization. Stakeholder identification, management and engagement are recognized as key project management skills that requires both intuition and a strong capacity for analysis. Visualization tools for stakeholder management can be of great value. The development and use of two such tools are described. While they are both independently useful they could be effectively combined. This is a preprint of an article whose final and definitive form has been published in the Construction Management and Economics, June 2008 [copyright Taylor & Francis]

Blg: The Stakeholder Mutuality Matrix. An analysis of the key sub-set of stakeholders that either require goods, services or other outputs from the project, or have to supply resources, services or support to the project.

Art: Are your stakeholders biased? You are biased, and so is every one of your stakeholders! Complete objectivity is nearly impossible to achieve especially in the realm of stakeholder relationships. We are all innately biased, the best that anyone can achieve is being aware of their various biases and working to minimize their effect on decisions, actions and communication.

WP: The innate effect of Bias. Deeply embedded biases affect every decision we make and affects every relationship and communication. The challenge is to accept people as they are and then work rationally within our innate biases; this needs a rational approach to an irrational problem! This White Paper takes a deeper look into the phenomenon of bias.



Engaging Stakeholders

Project Stakeholder Management describes the processes required to ensure that the various people and organizations who are involved in, or are affected by either the work of the project, or the outcomes from the project are identified and effectively engaged and managed. This stakeholder community will be continually changing throughout the project lifecycle, requiring a continuous process of adjustment. The objective of stakeholder management is to achieve stakeholder satisfaction by:

  • What you deliver; the project deliverables need to fulfil requirements and be fit for purpose
  • Managing expectations to a sensible level that is achievable, and
  • Effective and open communication.

Stakeholder CircleStakeholder Relationship Management A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation. Dr. Lynda Bourne: This book provides the 'road map' needed to help organizations achieve effective stakeholder engagement in two ways. Firstly, it is a ‘how-to’ book, secondly, it is a guidebook for assessing the current maturity of an organization. See more


PP: Achieving a Successful Engagement. Identifying, mapping and prioritizing a project’s stakeholder community is only the beginning. Projects will only be considered successful when their key stakeholders acknowledge they are a success. This requires the project team to effectively engage with each of its key stakeholders to understand and manage their expectations and then deliver to project to meet or exceed the ‘managed expectations’. Stakeholder expectations are never ‘fixed’; effective communication can help change perceptions and expectations to make them realistic and achievable. This paper identifies appropriate strategies and mechanisms to help project managers and team engage effectively and ethically with their key stakeholders to help create a successful project outcome including:
- Identifying and mapping the ‘important’ stakeholders
- Communications theory
- Influence networks
- Measuring ‘supportiveness’ and ‘receptiveness’
- Identifying the current and optimum levels for each
- Planning the communications strategy
- Using the right messages and messengers
- Implementing the communications strategy, and
- Measuring its effectiveness.

Art: Managing Stakeholder Attitudes. A very significant proportion of the risks around most projects are people based. The only way to identify, manage and/or mitigate these risks is by effective two-way communication designed to effect changes in key stakeholder's attitudes towards your project.  

Art: Stakeholder Management from the perspective of Sun Tzu. The supremacy of strategy over tactics, and tactics over reaction, in crafting effective stakeholder relationships.

Prs: 7½ tips for managing internal stakeholders: engaging stakeholders for maximum effect. Every action and activity involves stakeholders (but they may be different every time). Knowing who is important for your success makes you more effective, using a structured approach enables most effective use of your scarce resources, and communication is the key to successful engagement: information is the basis of communication and comes in various disguises. These 7.5 tips help you to know who is important for your success and communicate effectively to achieve a successful engagement: information is the basis of communication and comes in various disguises:

  1. Be clear about the project (or activity): until you can define the environment and context of the work you cannot clearly define who will be affected or can affect its success.
  2. Beware of stakeholder myopia: there is no upper limit to the number of stakeholders you should consider. Sometimes complex projects or long-term projects will have many stakeholders and the community will change over time.
  3. Especially when you have many stakeholders you will need to be clear on which ones are the most important.
  4. Be clear on their expectations: until you know ‘what’s in it for them’ you will not capture ‘hearts and minds’. until you know what they want you may not be able to secure their support or manage their perceptions of your success.
  5. Remember that while your work will deliver a new product or service (or change) the real challenge is to convince your stakeholders that this change is worth their while to adapt to. This is the change challenge!
    a. The reason for the change must be explained in terms of how it will affect them.
    b. Changes need to be defined, communicated, supported by training and senior management
         overt support.
    c. Ongoing support afterwards and possibly audits for compliance.
  6. You are not superman (or woman). Even if you have no staff you need to draw on the support, strengths, influence and inputs of others. You will burn out if you try to do everything, so for the sake of your life and relationships you must prioritize and find ways to share the thinking and doing load.
  7. The ‘credibility bank’ – even before you have problems you need to develop a reputation for being competent and trustworthy. This will give you credits in the ‘bank’ to draw on when you need them.
  8. (or 7.5) Keep building that network – your circle of influence is important to you. Get involved in ‘communities of practice’; keep connected – your network and where you fit is your strength and your insurance!

Art: Stakeholders - from confrontation to engagement. For most stakeholders, how you choose to deal with them is largely up to you. This article outlines the three basic ways you can deal with stakeholders.

Art: Communicating in Conflict. One of the realities of life is every once in a while, you are going to become embroiled in a dispute or argument that is emotional and personal. This article maps out a set of strategies that can help you stay focused on using communication to achieve a pragmatic outcome you can 'live with'.

WP: Communication Theory. Effective communication is the foundation of effective stakeholder engagement.This paper outlines the theory of communication.

PP: Beyond Reporting - The Communication Strategy. Communication is a science and an art. Communicating effectively with the project’s important stakeholders, so that their expectations can be both managed and met, is central to achieving a successful outcome. Reports are not enough! Communication is a complex two way process within the overall relationship between the project and the stakeholder. This paper identifies the key processes involved in developing and implementing an effective communication strategy.

PP: Communications Control? Information supports the decision makers, informs people and organizations of the work required to be done, monitors progress, and provides support and assurance at all levels of the organization of progress or of the need for intervention. This paper explores how communication in the form of information exchange controls and assists the work of organizations to deliver value to all stakeholders.

Art: Stakeholders and Complexity. Project ‘control systems’ don’t control anything and to a large extent, neither can project managers.In the complex world of the 21st century, communicating to influence outcomes is the key to success.

WP: Win-Win Negotiations. There are many advantages to win-win strategies when stakeholder engagement is considered, such as long-term business relationships, efficient processes and more value in the outcomes for both sides. The idea of a win-win can be very appealing but needs skill to achieve.


Internal Senior

Advising Upwards PP: Advising Upwards – managing the perceptions and expectations of senior management stakeholders. Advising upwards is a difficult skill for project and program managers to acquire. This paper uses modern stakeholder management theory as the basis for approaches designed to help successfully deliver projects within traditional organizations by appreciating the communication needs of senior executives and incorporating mutuality within the key supportive relationships. Senior managers in an organization have attained those positions by working through different levels of management and usually through learning and displaying aptitude in the laws of the corporate jungle. This aptitude includes the ability to recognize potential enemies and through preemptive strikes neutralize competition, and managing tasks and staff through the precepts of command and control. However, having reached the highest levels of an organization the skills requirements change from command and control to motivation and sponsorship. Many senior managers cannot change the habits of a working lifetime, and cannot easy make this transition.

Building on a previous paper describing this command and control behaviour and the existence of a ‘zone’ of uncertainty that does not feature in the senior stakeholder view of the world [see: The Paradox of Project Control in a Matrix Organization], further exploration is required to provide some guidance to PMs who encounter both the ‘zone’ and the behaviour. Stakeholder management methodologies identify the need to manage the expectations of stakeholders, the Stakeholder Circle® provides a 5 Steps process to identify, prioritize, visualize, engage and communicate, and finally monitor the effectiveness of that communication. This methodology also emphasizes that there are different types of stakeholders – upwards (senior managers), downwards (the team), sidewards (peers of the PM) and outwards (outside the project); managing the expectations and gaining the support of each type of stakeholder depends on the influence that each type exerts on the project.

Expectations are never ‘fixed’; effective communication can help change perceptions and expectations to make them realistic and achievable. Conversely, ineffective communications can create the perception of failure in the mind of a stakeholder even when the project is ‘on time, on budget and delivering the specified scope’. Upwards stakeholders may think that project success equals ‘on time, on budget and delivering the specified scope’ and that the PM must deliver to these criteria, but the reality of successful project management is that senior stakeholders, particularly the sponsor must play as far more active and overtly supportive role to ensure project success. It is part of the PM’s role to not only understand this but also to do whatever is necessary to ensure that senior stakeholders understand and fulfill the requirements of this role. This is about creativity in relationship management: there is no template or checklist to follow; this is not the realm of the faint hearted.

The experiences of the authors, in large organizations, in managing the expectations and the support of key senior stakeholders provides a foundation for exploration of the tasks needed to turn a Commander into a Sponsor, how to use the resources available in the form of influence networks, targeted communication and plain persistence. Results are not miraculous, small improvements must be celebrated, the possibility of failure contemplated. Download the shorter conference paper. See also:

PP: Advising Upwards – Helping your Managers Help You. Advising upwards, helping your managers to help you make your project successful requires skill and strategy.  Your project will only be considered successful if its key stakeholders perceive the project’s outcome as a success. These perceptions of success or failure are heavily influenced by the effectiveness of the project’s communications, and relationships, with its senior stakeholder community.

Studies have consistently shown a critical factor in creating successful project outcomes is the active support of senior stakeholders, particularly the sponsor. Successful project managers understand this and are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that their senior stakeholders understand the project’s needs and fulfill their support roles. This requires the project manager to be skillful at advising upwards, using effective stakeholder management techniques to engage the support of senior executives and to manage their expectations. Crafting this advice to senior management to achieve the required outcomes from the communication is as much an art as a science. Communicating for effect requires a clear understanding of the objective of the communication and the skills to create messages that are focused; on the right people, at the right time and carry the right information in the right format.

PP: Stakeholder Relationship Management. Using the Stakeholder Circle methodology for more effective stakeholder engagement of senior management. Studies have consistently shown that a critical factor in creating successful project outcomes is the active support of senior management stakeholders, particularly the sponsor. Successful project managers understand this and are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that this group of stakeholders understands the project’s needs and are prepared to support it to its (successful) conclusion.

PP: Getting the 'soft stuff' right - Effective communication is the key to successful project outcomes! Effective communication with senior management is an on-going collegiate effort by all project practitioners within the organization; designed to inform, educate and influence senior managers so that ‘sensible’ project decisions become the norm, no senior manager with integrity will commit to a project knowing its objectives cannot be achieved but communicating this information can be difficult!. Most projects that are committed to achieve ‘impossible’ time, cost and/or scope objectives are started because the correct ‘project management’ messages were not received and believed by the senior managers commissioning the project.  Effective communication with senior management is not a one-off effort by an individual project manager. Rather it’s an on-going collegiate effort by all project practitioners within the organization; designed to inform, educate and influence senior managers so that ‘sensible’ project decisions become the norm. A key element in honest communication is knowing what is possible. Writing on pieces of paper does not change the future! It's therefore critical that project practitioners clearly explain the limitations of project management processes and use effective risk management to deal with the inherent uncertainty associated with every project forecast; then actively monitor, update, adjust and report progress. This paper discusses:
- Techniques to determine the right stakeholders to focus communication effort on at each stage of a project
- Influence Mapping
- Elements of Effective Project Communications: right message, right messenger
- Strategies for communicating effectively
- Complexity Theory from a communications perspective
- Managing and communicating risk and uncertainty, and
- The key role of a PMO as the communicator and translator between projects and management
   (see more on PMOs).
View the PowerPoint presentation.

WP: A Project Manager’s Mangers. The key senior management stakeholders who, when properly engaged, provide direction and support to the project manager.

Prs: Motivate your Manager! Senior management support is a critical element in the successful delivery of projects and programs. Without effective support from executives, project managers have difficulty accessing the full range of resources needed to achieve their projects objectives. This presentation focuses on a range of communication tools and methodologies project and program managers can deploy to motivate their managers to help them succeed. In most cases, a successful outcome is directly beneficial to the manager; the challenge is making the right connections.

PP: From Commander to Sponsor: Managing Upwards in the Project Environment. This paper provides a foundation for exploration of the tasks needed to turn a senior manager 'Commander' into a supportive Sponsor and how to use the resources available in the form of influence networks, targeted communication and plain persistence. Case studies based on experiences of the authors, in large organizations, in managing the expectations and the support of key senior stakeholders are used to ground the paper.

Art: Influence without authority. How to build credibility and acquire the ‘currency’ you need to trade for the support and help you require.

Advising UpwardsAdvising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders.  Building, and managing, relationships with senior (upwards) stakeholders is essential for success. Advising Upwards makes a detailed examination of stakeholder relationship management, starting with a discussion of the personal changes that senior managers must make as they move into executive roles in the organization, and recognizing that through targeted and purposeful communication the team must ensure that their senior stakeholders understand how best to support their work. See more on the book.


Internal Teams & Colleagues

WP: Leadership. To survive and succeed in this VUCA world, leaders need to focus on, creating clarity, building unity,supporting inclusion, and fostering agility to assist in grounding and focusing their people during times of change;which requires both the leader and their team to be focused, committed, engaged, involved and flexible.

WP: Motivation. One of the key skills required by project managers is the ability to motivate team members and the wider stakeholder community, good managers lead and motivate their teams helping them be successful.

WP: The Art of Delegation. Effective delegation is the key to success, it frees up your time to manage and helps team member grow.

Art: Practical Stakeholder Engagement. Four of the basic ‘good practices’ that help you engage with your team and other stakeholders.

WP: Managing Meetings. Meetings are a key part of all projects and central to effective communication and stakeholder engagement provided they are managed effectively.

WP: Issues Management. Every issue comes with a stakeholder attached! Effective processes are needed to identify, prioritize, and manage issues.



Art: Lifting Stakeholder Management to the Next Level. Exemplary customer service often costs nothing (and can save money), but if there is a cost the value gained usually outweighs the price paid.

Prs: Stakeholder Relationship Management in the Supply Chain. Effective procurement leadership requires the skills and knowledge to engage effectively with a wide range of stakeholders. This paper outlines the critical role stakeholders play in the operation of an effective supply chain and suggests a range of techniques supply chain professionals can apply to enhance their organization's stakeholder relationship management capabilities.

Prs: Trust: a tale of two constructions. Building and maintaining effective relationships is not easy. It requires both parties to recognize that there will be differing expectations and definitions of success and requires work to develop the necessary trust through understanding the expectations of important stakeholders. Wembley Stadium illustrates how a lack of trust and ‘hard dollar’ contracts impacted relationships between the delivery partners; whereas Heathrow Terminal 5 proves the benefits derived from working to develop trust are well worth the effort.

Prs: Rethinking Construction - Stakeholder Management in the Construction Industry. Construction
Many technically competent builders are failing to maximize the value of their work to their client organizations/employers by focusing exclusively on technology, data and processes. By including an awareness of communication and relationship management within the overall matrix of skills used to develop a schedule, cost plan, etc, the builder can transform the perception of the documents value from being seen as an ‘administrative overhead’ into a valuable resource. To achieve the spread of effective relationships needed to succeed, the builder, must recognize that project teams and senior management have different perceptions, expectations and measures of success and customize his/her communication strategy to meet their different requirements. The relationship aware builder is trusted and relied on by both project teams and senior management, acting as an effective cultural translator between the two groups. Technical competence is still a vital requirement, if this is missing there is no point in communicating, but once the technical issues are conquered the difference between average and exceptional performance is found in the capability of the builder to effectively relate and communicate with his/her stakeholders up and down the organization. This paper outlines a number of techniques and tools, including the Stakeholder Circle® that can be used to identify and map stakeholders, understand their requirements and develop an effective communication plan.

PP: Why is stakeholder management so difficult? The focus of this paper is the construction and operation of Heathrow Terminal 5 for British Airways, tracing its development from a successful construction project to its disastrous opening in 2008. Projects involve more than the delivery of a product, service or result: they create change. More than anything, they are about managing relationships both within and around the work and outcomes of the project. The challenge for organizations is to deliver successful projects in a climate of uncertainty by ensuring that all those groups and individuals affected by the change, the stakeholders, are engaged in a way that enhances collaboration, and the prospects for success. Through tracing T5's development from a successful construction project to its disastrous opening where thousands of bags were lost in the first couple of days, the importance of robust relationships and effective communication in every aspect of the successful delivery of a project’s outcomes is developed. We are all social animals: we don’t thrive alone. We need to build relationships in our personal and professional lives to be effective human beings. Building relationships requires us to understand two important factors: firstly, a sustainable relationship provides benefits to both parties; and secondly communication is the tool to build and maintain robust relationships. This is indisputably the case in personal relationships, but the same conditions apply to professional relationships. We all communicate: sometimes we do so unconsciously, but we need to appreciate that the most effective communication, personal or professional, is planned – we know the purpose of the communication, we are certain that the relationship is important, and we are clear about the level of effort we need to apply to the communication activity. Based on this premise, a methodology to assist organizations in effective engagement of a project’s important stakeholders is described and lessons that will benefit all projects are identified.

Art: Stakeholder engagement by any other name. From an organizational perspective stakeholder engagement is a means to achieving outcomes that are both commercially desirable and necessary. This article describes some of the overarching terms that incorporate stakeholder engagement as a core competency.



Useful External Web-links & Resources



A course in a book

Risk management template

A course in a book

Communication management template

A course in a book

Communication management template

A course in a book

Stakeholder management tools

A course in a book

Risk management template

A course in a book

Stakeholder management tools

A course in a book

Stakeholder management tools

A course in a book

Communication management template

A course in a book

Stakeholder management tools

A course in a book

Stakeholder management tools