Stakeholder Circle® Methodology

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The first stage in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology is identifying the stakeholders that have the potential to influence the activity being managed. This page considers who is a stakeholder, and the information needed to register the stakeholder in the Stakeholder Circle® tools.

Topics included Stakeholder Circle® methodology - Identification:

- Stakeholder Circle® Methodology Overview
- Stakeholder Definition and Identification
   - Defining stakeholders
   - Identifying stakeholders
- Articles and Papers - Identification

Other related sections of the PMKI:

- Stakeholder Circle Help - Identification
- Advanced Stakeholder Engagement
- The Stakeholder Relationship Management Maturity Model (SRMM®).

The Stakeholder Circle® Methodology Overview

The Stakeholder Circle® has been designed to focus management attention on the stakeholders that are important at this point in time, to the success of the business activity, or project, they are managing. It incorporates a proven methodology supported by a robust, easy to use tool that guides you through five easy steps to:

SWS BoxThe Stakeholder Work Sheet (SWS) is a sophisticated Excel spreadsheet built to implement the Stakeholder Circle® methodology - see more on the SWS.

The first stage in applying the methodology is the identification and documentation of a business unit, or project’s stakeholders.  As described below, this requires developing a list of stakeholders who perceive they will be impacted by the work or may have an impact on the work, either positively or negatively.
See more on creating the list of stakeholders using the Stakeholder Circle SWS spreadsheet


Stakeholder Definition and Identification:

Defining stakeholders

A stakeholder is a person, group or organization that has a stake in the activity being assessed. Therefore at the very start of the process of identifying stakeholders, it is important to have a clear understanding of the scope of the activity being assessed. This is relatively straightforward for most projects, the scope of works is defined and documented. However, for business activities such as implementing a change management initiative ensuring the people involved in developing the Stakeholder Circle® and using its outputs have a consistent, and agreed view of the scope of the activity helps focus discussions and decisions. The defined scope can be amended and the Stakeholder Circle® redefined at any time.

A stakeholder may be defined as an individual (by name or position), a group or committee, or as organization or company. Their stake in the defined activity may include:

  • Having an interest in the outcomes of the activity (eg, the organization's senior managers and owners)
  • Legal or moral rights, or ownership of something associated with, or used by the activity
  • Making a contribution to the activity by providing knowledge, resources or support (eg, team members, suppliers, and experts)
  • Perceiving they will be impacted by, or can impact the outcomes of the activity, these perceptions do not have to be ‘real’, merely believed by the stakeholder.

Some key people may be identified both as an individual and as a part of a group. Therefor, the existence of a stakeholder is best considered from a communications (or action) viewpoint. For example, for a typical project, the Project Control Board (PCB) would exist as a stakeholder and require communications (reports) from the project at regular intervals and would provide instructions, support and other ‘resources’ to the project. In addition, some individuals who are part of the PCB may also require specific actions or reports; eg the Chief Financial Officer may require specific cost data or forecasts independent of the PCB and may benefit by being defined as a stakeholder in her own right as well.

Identifying Stakeholders

Identification of a business unit, or project’s stakeholders is a process of developing a list of those who are impacted by the work or have the potential to impact the work, either positively or negatively. The manager, team members and other individuals from the organization familiar with the work, its deliverables and constraints, and the organization’s structure and politics should be involved in developing the list. Participants should include:

  • The manager,
  • Core team members who will be responsible for ongoing performance of the work, and
  • The sponsor to contribute knowledge about the culture and power relationships of the organization.

Stakeholder identification focuses on developing a complete list of stakeholders with their key attributes, including their 'stake' in the project. We use the acronym IRONIC to highlight the different stakes a person or organization may have (most have more than one). IRONIC stands for:

  • Interest: A person or group of people believe they are indirectly or directly affected by the work or its outcomes.
  • Rights: To be treated in a certain way or to have a particular right protected, including legal rights and moral rights.
  • Ownership: A circumstance when a person or group of people has a legal title to an asset or a property affected by, or needed for the work.
  • kNowledge: Specialist knowledge or organizational knowledge needed for the work Impact or influence: Impacted by the work or its outcomes, or can impact (or influence) the execution of work or its outcomes.
  • Contribution: Of support or assets including the supply of resources, the allocation of funding, or providing advocacy for the objectives of the project. 

Once you understand the stake the stakeholder is seeking to protect, profit from, or enhance, you can start planning how to manage the relationship with each key stakeholder.

After a set of stakeholders have been identified, they also need to be categorized into their direction of influence (compared to the activity manager):

  • Upwards – senior managers of the organization
  • Downwards – members of the team and suppliers and sub-contractors
  • Outwards – stakeholders outside the organization, such as end users, government, unions, shareholders, and
  • Sidewards – peers of the manager within the organization, including other managers.

Mutuality – an assessment of what the stakeholder wants from the project and what the project needs from the stakeholder. Identifying and managing stakeholder expectations (requirements) are a key part of effective stakeholder management. Also, understanding what the stakeholder requires from the project helps in the negotiations to obtain what the project needs from the stakeholder:

The process of reaching agreement on these categories will often require the team to negotiate an acceptable outcome. This is followed by identifying what each stakeholder requires from the project as well as the significance of the stakeholder to the project. Once complete, the next step ‘prioritization’ of the identified stakeholders can commence: see more on prioritization

For instructions on creating the list of stakeholders, in the Stakeholder Circle® tools, see: Stakeholder Circle® Help - Identification.


Published Articles & Papers - Stakeholder Identification


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.

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.


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