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Project Relationships and the Stakeholder Circle

"The man who is prepared has his battle half fought."
Miguel De Cervantes

Keywords: project management, stakeholder management, organisation, relationships.

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Project Relationships and the Stakeholder Circle® [P010]
Abbreviated as Stakeholder Management and the Stakeholder Circle® for SEPGSM.

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. The project's success, or failure, 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 the organisation's politics.

A stakeholder management methodology and visualisation tool, the Stakeholder Circle®, was developed to assist in this process and was the foundation for this research. 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.

This 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.

The research adopted a qualitative approach. Data were collected through interviews, document analysis, observation and from the results of the iterative refinement cycles of the Stakeholder Circle®. Case study descriptions of participant projects provided a rich picture of the project and the organisation that supported interpretation of the resulting profiles of each project's unique stakeholder community. Iterative testing and refinement resulted in a practical methodology that has been evaluated as a valuable tool that can support project teams in identifying the 'right' stakeholders to engage. Serendipitous findings about the relationship between the profile of stakeholder community as shown by the Stakeholder Circle® and the informal power structures of the performing organisation have aroused interest in the project management community.

The project team benefits from use of the Stakeholder Circle" methodology and tool by sharing knowledge about each of the stakeholders, and through the act of building team relationships through negotiating for agreement on the relative importance of each stakeholder. These experiences will contribute to the growth of the project team members. Their organisations benefit from the increased awareness of the project team members of the importance of project relationship management and how to achieve it. Through the additional knowledge the project team gains the organisation will increase its 'knowledge capital'. An additional benefit will arise from a decrease in failed projects with the consequential decrease in wasted funds and resources.

The new approaches to project relationship management in the form of the theory implicit in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology and visualisation tool will benefit the profession through improving the occurrences of project success. These approaches will increase the value of projects to organisations, and their continuing success will improve the reputation of the project management profession.

Author: Dr. Lynda Bourne

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