Is it time to rethink that power/interest stakeholder model?

That power/interest model has served us well, but I think its time to move on. What I don't like about this traditional model of stakeholder analysis is that those who are perceived to be without power end up being seen as less important. I question the ethics of this, but also caution that its pretty dangerous ! Understanding who has the power is no longer so clear cut.

Stakeholder engagement is a big thing in project communication - which is one of my main areas of interest.  It is widely acknowledged that a successful project needs well managed and effective stakeholder relationships, but sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and attempting to understand the stakeholder landscape is a daunting task.  Turning that piece of paper into a tangible and sustainable relationship that benefits the project, and the organization, is harder still.

Many projects and programmes adopt the power-interest matrix in an attempt to codify and order the process for identifying stakeholders; yet this approach privileges a certain type of stakeholder at the expense of many others who are needed to make the project successful.

I got together with Lou Horton who is a change manager in central government to come up with a new approach.  We argue that for change projects, its not the combination of power and influence that should determine a stakeholder’s worth,  but rather that person’s role in the organisation. Engaging stakeholders in this way provides increased opportunities for sustainable change and benefits realisation.  I talk about this in my book Communicating Projects and Lou and I expand on the idea in PM World Journal.

Be great to hear views on this - does the power/ interest model work for you or do you agree that it is time for some fresh thinking?

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About the author

Ann Pilkington

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy, a leading provider of public relations and communication education.  Her special areas of interest are internal communication and project communication.

Ann leads PR Academy’s CIPR internal comms certificate.

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