Spotting potential advocates early on

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Mapping stakeholders has long been a subjective task, but the most widely used power/influence grid has taken precedence for at least two decades, often pigeonholing stakeholders as high priority or low priority for an extended period, regardless of context.

Theres still a lot to be said for using this method as a starting point, but just as project management needs to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances, so does our understanding of stakeholder mapping. Currently at the Marine Management Organisation, were looking at risk too, to ensure were not just working with national stakeholders, but also understanding how smaller organisations and interested individuals can help shape our work. Social media is ideal for this, as concerns around costly engagement at a very local level are less valid when we can talk to a wide range of groups big and small on a daily basis.

So by mapping risk, we can ask who can really make a project succeed or fail?. Who needs to know about any changes were making, and how will they respond if we dont communicate effectively?

Other organisations we work with conduct a vulnerability audit, a very similar idea which attempts to map risk of conflict, confusion, loss of support and predicted hostility. Essentially, its about not just the ability, but the desire, to make these views known publicly.

Spotting our potential advocates early on (ie the ones who can help a project succeed) has helped us work with them throughout the project, and adapt to feedback early on in the process to avoid problems further down the line. In a recent example, the groups and individuals we identified spread the word via their networks, offered very honest feedback throughout the process and were then more than willing to talk about the project publicly as it reached its conclusion.

Urgency is also essential here how soon will a stakeholders actions impact on the project? As an agile project management practitioner, I can use weekly sprints to enable us to change direction or focus as and when needed. Views change fast, so we need to be able to match that speed and meet it with new solutions.

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Posted by Rachel Forster on 22nd Jul 2014

About the Author
A former regional and national journalist, now working as a government communicator at the Marine Management Organisation. Regularly manages communications projects, and is currently leading on the digital transformation of her organisation to ensure anyone using their services can find information quickly and easily online. Rachel is an accredited agile project management practitioner.

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