Stakeholder Circle® methodology

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The Stakeholder Circle® is designed to enhance the management of a business unit, organizational activity, or project’s stakeholder community to the benefit of the stakeholders and the activity. It is a proven methodology supported by robust, easy to use tools.

Topics included Stakeholder Circle® methodology:

- Stakeholder Circle® Overview
- The Stakeholder Circle® Tools & Books
- Applying the Stakeholder Circle® Methodology 

Other related sections of the PMKI:

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

Stakeholder Circle® Overview

Stakeholder Circle

The Stakeholder Circle® is based on the premise that a project can only exist with the informed consent of its stakeholder community. This community comprises individuals and groups, each with a different potential to influence the project’s outcome. The Stakeholder Circle® has been devised to offer a mechanism for assessing the relative influence of each of the key stakeholders and planning ways to engage with and manage their expectations/contributions. The benefit of using this methodology is derived in part from the analysis process itself as well as from the ease with which the influence of key stakeholder’s on the project can be judged once the ‘Stakeholder Circle’ is complete.

The tools facilitates the regular updating of this assessment as the stakeholder community changes to reflect the dynamic nature of the project and its relationships. Changes and trends are tracked over time to help the team identify which engagement strategies are working and which need reviewing.

To develop the 'circle', Stakeholders are weighted according to the three characteristics.

Power: Some stakeholders (either alone or operating as a group) can kill the project using their own power, other stakeholders have the power to change or damage the project but cannot on their own cause it to be cancelled or fail – this is the power axis in the stakeholder circle.

Proximity: This aspect considers how closely a stakeholder is associated with the day-to-day running of the project. The center of the diagram represents the project. The space between the two circles represents the sphere of influence of the project on its whole stakeholder community. The proximity of a stakeholder to the project is represented by how close their segment is to the project in the center.

Urgency / Importance: The width of the arc represents the amount of urgency or importance attributed to a stakeholder from the teams perspective (ie, how likely the stakeholder is to use its power), the wider the segment, the greater the urgency.

To understand the research behind the methodology and tool-set click through to Dr. Lynda Bourne's research thesis: Project Relationship Management and the Stakeholder Circle® 

Published Papers

The Stakeholder Circle offers a mechanism for assessing the relative influence of each of the key stakeholders. Stakeholders are weighted according to three characteristics: power, proximity and urgency/importance and the assessments melded into a single diagram.

PP: The Stakeholder Circle - Tool Description. The Stakeholder Circle® offers a mechanism for assessing the relative importance of each of the key stakeholders in a project. Stakeholders are weighted according to the three characteristics and the assessments are melded into a single diagram.

PP: Concepts for a Stakeholder Circle Management Tool. This is the original 2002 conference paper outlining the concept of the Stakeholder Circle, it is included for historical reference only. Following on, the prototype tool was used in Dr. Bourne's thesis (below) and then commercialized as a practical aid to stakeholder engagement.

PP: Visualizing and Mapping Stakeholder Influence. This paper describes research that was conducted during 2004/2005 centred around the Stakeholder Circle tool, as a means to provide a useful and effective way to visualize stakeholder power and influence that may have pivotal impact on a project’s success or failure.

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. Click through to see more on the SRMM Model.

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.



The Stakeholder Circle® Tools & Books

Tools & Software

Stakeholder Work Sheet: SWS - Excel Template

Stakeholder Worksheet

Note: The SWS spreadsheet uses embedded macros and is designed for use by one business unit, project or program. You will need to enable the macros to use the tool.

The SWS is a sophisticated spreadsheet based on the Stakeholder Circle methodology, designed to manage all of the key aspects of stakeholder engagement for a single project or business unit, including: - Identifying the stakeholders, defining their role and understanding both your requirements and their expectations (mutuality).
- Assessing the priority of each stakeholder based on their power, proximity and urgency.
- Determining an engagement strategy for each of the key stakeholders to optimise their attitude towards
   the project
- Reviewing and updating the situation at regular intervals during the life of the project.

Stakeholder Circle

Download a free sample: Download the sample Spreadsheet

Stakeholder on a Page: SoaP - Template

Stakeholder On-A-Page

SoaP is an easy to use template designed to implement the Stakeholder Circle methodology:
- Identifying the stakeholders, defining their role and understanding both your
   requirements and their expectations (mutuality).
- Assessing the priority of each stakeholder based on their power, proximity
   and urgency.
- Determining an engagement strategy for each of the key stakeholders to
   optimise their attitude towards the project
- Reviewing and updating the situation at regular intervals (three updates).
- Tracking issues (on the reverse side of the sheet)

Stakeholder Circle

Download a free sample: Download the sample Template

Communication Plan: CommWS - Excel Template

Comms Plan

A practical template for planning and monitoring the routine reporting and communication requirements of a project or program. For each report you define: - The report name, start date (first report sent) and frequency (from daily to monthly) - The planned recipients of each report

The system monitors when the reports are due to be sent and if they have been sent and received.

This is a very robust, easy to use tool that ensures that all essential reports and routine communications are effectively managed.

Comms Plan

Download a free sample: Download Sample Spreadsheet

Stakeholder Circle® Books

Books authored by Dr. Lynda Bourne. Click through to the relevant book page:

Making Projects WorkMaking Projects Work: Effective Stakeholder and Communication Management. Dr. Lynda Bourne: Projects are performed by people for people, with the key determinants of success being the relationships between project teams and project stakeholders. This web of relationships will either enable or obstruct the flow of information between people and, as a consequence, will largely determine project success or failure. See more.

Advising UpwardsAdvising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders. Dr. Lynda Bourne: Building, and managing, relationships with senior (upwards) stakeholders is essential for success. This requires the activity manager to be skillful at building and maintaining robust relationships, focused on engaging the support of senior executives, understanding their expectations and managing them through targeted communication. See more.

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.




Applying the Stakeholder Circle® Methodology

The Stakeholder Circle® has been designed to put stakeholders on the ‘management radar’. It incorporates a proven methodology supported by a robust, easy to use tool that guides you through five easy steps to:

  • Identify your stakeholders and understand their needs
  • Prioritize the stakeholders based on their power, proximity and ‘urgency’
  • Visualize the key stakeholders using the Stakeholder Circle®
  • Engage with the stakeholders, by building and implementing an effective communication plan based on the stakeholders supportiveness and receptiveness
  • Monitor changes over time (using the Stakeholder Engagement Profile) as you update and review your stakeholder community at key points in the project.

The five phases of the methodology are explained in more detail below. The underlying research is described in the List of Papers, available for free download. Experience suggests the use of facilitated workshops significantly enhances the outcomes from applying the Stakeholder Circle methodology.


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 will impact the work, 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.

Identification can be done through brainstorming or any other process commonly used in the organization. After a set of stakeholders have been identified, they need to be categorized into:

  • 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.

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. This information is entered into the Stakeholder Circle and validated. Once complete, the next step ‘prioritization’ of the identified stakeholders can commence. 


The assessment of each stakeholder’s importance to the project is based on ratings from the identification team members of each stakeholder’s perceived power, proximity and urgency. These assessments are combined within the tool to produces an ‘index’ for each stakeholder. The stakeholders are then ranked based on their ‘index’ (the higher the index value, the higher the priority) to produce a prioritized list of stakeholders.


The ranked list of all stakeholders is used to develop the communication plan.

The top 15 stakeholders are mapped into a symbolic stakeholder community, depicting their relative importance through color coding, and the size and placement of the segments of the Circle. This diagram provides valuable pictorial information to assist in understanding the stakeholder community for that phase of the project. Categorization and charting of key stakeholders holds the key to targeting the right stakeholders at the right time in the life of the project and providing them with the right level of engagement, information and communication. 


The visualization tool charts a project’s key stakeholders according to their ability to influence the project’s success or failure. Defining appropriate responses requires an understanding of each stakeholder’s levels of support and receptiveness to messages about the project: this is the engagement strategy and the precursor to a targeted communication plan.

The data available in the tool and collected from earlier parts of the process are inputs to developing the engagement strategy. Knowing the category of a stakeholder will provide the key to how the message should be developed and delivered:

  • The communication to a senior manager will need to contain only the information, and in the format necessary to provide management will essential data about the project
  • Messages to team members will need more detail and different language.

Knowing the expectations of the stakeholder in the form of ‘what each stakeholder requires from the project’ helps the project team deliver focused information designed to assure the stakeholder that what they expect to gain from successful delivery of the project will be achieved.

The resulting strategy defines for each stakeholder the tailored messages most likely to be effective communications; including who, what, when and how they will be delivered.


Project managers must then convert the strategy into action! This involves integrating the communication plan into the project schedule and reporting on it through team meetings and regular reports. Our Comm-Plan spreadsheet is designed to assist with the management of the communication effort (see more on the Comm-Plan SS).

However effective the implementation of the communication plan; its effectiveness will diminish over time. The project’s stakeholder community changes as stakeholders move within the organization or leave it; or their relative importance to the project, or their power and influence changes. Also, as the project moves through the different phases in its lifecycle, different stakeholders may have more or less of an impact, and as a consequence, their levels of importance, and communication requirements will change.

To maintain currency, the stakeholder assessment process may have to be repeated in whole, or in part, many times. To be most effective, the project team should update their assessment regularly, particularly as the project progresses through the phases of its lifecycle or as the stakeholder community changes to reflect the dynamic nature of the project’s many relationships. Through review and re-assessment of a project’s stakeholder community, a history of stakeholder involvement and importance, and decisions made about their engagement is maintained; providing a means to monitor the effectiveness of engagement strategy and communications over time.



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