Few things complicate projects more than people. Individuals and teams have agendas, priorities and biases that can be explicit and out in the open, or tacit and unstated but lurking in the shadows of every meeting and interaction. With a bit of focus, the right tool, and input from teammates, it is possible to begin quantifying your stakeholders and better understand how they are supporting your project (or not).
Step one is to identify all the key stakeholders in a project. The starting point here is either a project organization chart, or a meeting agenda with a list of participants. Look at these these two lists carefully and be analytical. If you see a Director who attends project status meetings, but you know they report back to an powerful Vice-President, then that VP is a stakeholder even though she never attends a meeting. Think about all groups that influence or will be influenced by a project. Finance provides data. Marketing controls a key process. Customer Service will answer calls after go-live. All these groups are stakeholders and all can impact the success of your effort. I like to develop a list of 10-16 people to have a balanced view of the stakeholders.
Once you have a list of stakeholders, then it is time to look at them closely and quantitatively. The best tool I have seen for stakeholder analysis is a LUCI Assessment. It is a simple, fair tool that can be completed by an individual or the core project team. I use a simple scoring where each individual is scored as green, yellow or red in each of the 4 categories.
LUCI is an acronym that stands for: Leadership, Understanding, Compliance and Influence. Lets look at them each in the right order:
Leadership - Is the individual leading at their level? If they have access to the boardroom, are they in there as a champion of the project? If they are on a small development team, are they keeping the energy high and the staff motivated? There are many ways to assess a person’s ability to lead, but the most obvious indicator is not to look at the individual, but the people around them. Positive leadership can always been seen in the people who follow a positive leader.
Understanding - Does the individual “get it”? Do they show a command of all the aspects of the project from the purpose to the major milestones to the value the project will deliver? Do they stay up to date and keep their knowledge of the project current?
Compliance - Does the individual buy-in, and are they willing to do what it takes for the project to success? Even if it means extra work, or an activity a bit outside of their swimlane, are they onboard to do what it takes to move the project forward?
Influence - Is the individual an active champion who promotes and supports the project? Do they have the credibility to help other stakeholders see the value of the project? Are they demonstrating that they help people even when times are tough?
Once you have the list of stakeholders and have applied some rapid and subjective judgements, what do you do?
The main purpose of the stakeholder assessment is to be able to assign project leadership as coaches to meet individually with all the stakeholders and increase their ability to support the project. If you have an individual who is all green all the time, then raise their profile. Develop a roadshow. Make them a more formal ambassador for the project. If several people are yellow, meet with them and ask why? If they have competing priorities, adjust their commitment to the project or narrow their assignments. If you have people who score mostly red, you need to understand why. These are the people you need to work with one on one through a series of meetings. Understand and address their concerns. If people are entrenched and seem committed to always being red, then you should speak with the project sponsor about replacing them or developing a risk mitigation strategy for working with that stakeholder.
If you have a good project with a solid charter and reasonable expectations, then you have the right ingredients to build a string and enthusiastic team. Effective stakeholder management is a key to building the enthusiasm and commitment required for a successful completion.