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Seeing Who's There - A Brief History of Stakeholder Mapping & Visualisation

"If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development"


Keywords: Stakeholder management, relationships, visualisation. 

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Seeing Who's There - A Brief History of Stakeholder Mapping & Visualisation [P073]

Everyone is talking about stakeholders, is a stakeholder, or needs to manage stakeholders. Surprisingly, this has not always been the case. The concept of stakeholders seems to have emerged initially in the systems analysis work on organisations conducted by researchers at the Tavistock Institute in London in the late 1960s and early 70s. In the last 30 years, both the concept and the spread of people and organisations covered by the term ‘stakeholder’ seem to have expanded and evolved and are continuing to change. Given project managers are now required to identify and manage stakeholders (PMBOK® Guide 2008) it will be 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 visualisation 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 managment 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. This knowledge will help project managers meet the challenge of determining the most effective tools to use to achieve an appropriate understanding of their stakeholders. Armed with this information, the PM can make the best use of the limited resources available to the project team and optimise the chance of a successful project outcome.

Author: Patrick Weaver

Presented at:
Canberra, 2009
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