ON THE EDGE

The Hierarchy of Holiday Stakeholders

by Carl Pritchard, Pritchard Management Associates



No matter the religion or belief system, between now and the first weeks of the new year most of us will savor the joy of rekindled friendships, a shared repast, and a celebration or two. But will we have actually considered all the people we need to consider?

Stakeholder identification is a challenge of project management, and a challenge in virtually any environment. The beauty of holiday gatherings is that they provide both a common frame of reference and a common metaphor for taking a new look at a practice we all strive to achieve-effective stakeholder identification.

Most efforts in this area are amorphous, allowing for brainstorms or free-wheeling identification practices to hopefully catch the full body of stakeholders. Watching this happen time and again, I came to realize that while we have breakdown structures and taxonomies for organizations, contracts, risk, resources, work, and virtually everything else in project management, there is no taxonomy of stakeholders. And while we could readily tie stakeholder analysis to one of the other breakdown structures, the nature of stakeholders is sufficiently consistent that a common taxonomy may be applicable. Such a taxonomy, in a formal setting, might look like this:

1.0
Internal

1.1
Department 1

1.1.1
Management

1.1.2
Team

1.1.3
Non-team Users

1.1.4
Non-team Non-users

1.2
Department 2

1.2.1
Management

1.2.2
Team

1.2.3
Non-team Users

1.2.4
Non-team Non-users

1.3
Accounting

1.3.1
Management…

1.4
Finance

1.4.1
Management…

1.5
Legal

1.5.1
Management…

1.6
Project

1.6.1
Management…


2.0
External

2.1
Vendor

2.1.1
Management

2.1.2
Team

2.1.3
Sales

2.1.4
Support

2.1.5
Contracts

2.2
Client

2.2.1
Management

2.2.2
Team

2.2.3
Sales

2.2.4
Support

2.2.5
Contracts

2.3
Non-Client External

2.3.1
Management

2.3.2
Connecting Forces

2.3.3
Influence Groups and Committees

2.4
Government and Regulatory

2.4.1
Management

2.4.2
Oversight

2.4.3
Support

While this taxonomy seems rather sterile (and it is), when you put it in the context of your next holiday gathering/party/fete, it puts a little clarifying "meat on the bones." Just going through the exercise of trying to find stakeholders in each category goes a long way toward being able to put faces with the titles and people in the roles to participate as active stakeholders.

1.0
Internal

1.1
Department 1 (Our Family)

1.1.1
Management (My wife)

1.1.2
Team (My sons)

1.1.3
Non-team Users (My sons' invited friends)

1.1.4
Non-team Non-users (My sons' uninvited friends who still want to be able to use the basement to practice with their rock band with the volume set to 11)

1.2
Department 2 (My In-Laws)

1.2.1
Management (My mother-in-law)

1.2.2
Team (My brother- and sister-in-law)

1.2.3
Non-team Users (Their families)

1.2.4
Non-team Non-users (The legion of cousins we didn't invite who, if they find out that we're having this little gathering will probably turn on us when Thanksgiving rolls around in '08)

1.3
Accounting (My wife. Hey! Carl! You already said your wife! I know I did, but she's also a CPA and I'm not about to put someone else in this role. Besides, she has different stakes in this role than when she's running family gatherings).

1.3.1
Management (her)

1.3.2
Team (Me, as one of the primary breadwinners in the household)

1.3.3
Non-team Users (Those who will also tap my wallet)

1.3.4
Non-team Non-users (Those who do not get a shot at my holiday largesse)

1.4
Legal (OK, not every category applies on every project)

1.5
Project

1.5.1
Management (The cook. Me again, but in a different role.)

1.5.2
Team (The logistics team. That would be my wife and sons again, but in different roles.)

1.5.3
Non-team Users (The in-laws again, but this time as consumers)

1.5.4
Non-team Non-users (The cousins again, this time when they find out they missed basket after basket of home-baked bread)
2.0
External

2.1
Vendor (The Grocery Store)

2.1.1
Management (Believe it or not, some of us still have relationships with our local grocers. I'm notorious at my market as "The Guy with Two Carts." They love me.)

2.1.2
Team (The guy out front who gets my carts. The woman who I chat with in the noodle aisle every week.)

2.1.3
Sales (The deli staff. The seafood staff. The meat man.)

2.1.4
Support (The cashier. The fellow who helps cram all this into my sedan.)

2.1.5
Contracts (The front "Service Desk" folks who arbitrate the scanner disputes, coupon missteps and other common market nuisances.)

2.2
Client

2.2.1
Management (The neighbors who will join us)

2.2.2
Team (Their kids)

2.2.3
Support (Their babysitters)

2.2.4
Contracts (The person in their house responsible for the RSVP)

2.3
Non-Client External

2.3.1
Management (The neighbors who won't join us, but who will see all the cars out front and know that we're having a major "do" that they weren't invited to, causing a potential rift in neighbor-to-neighbor relations)

2.3.2
Connecting Forces (The neighbors who will incite the neighbors who weren't invited but didn't see it as a slight until the other neighbor brought up how surprised they were that they didn't get invited, particularly given their proximity to our home)

2.3.3
Influence Groups and Committees (The Neighborhood Watch who will do everything except identify the vehicle that clips the side mirror of my son's Volvo because it was parked on the street instead of the driveway)

2.4
Government and Regulatory

2.4.1
Management (You could look at this one in a variety of ways, but I see this primarily as the local constabulary or gendarmerie who have found my son's friends practicing guitar in the garage at 11 at night with the volume set to 11.)

2.4.2
Oversight (This is all the agencies who regulate the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. This probably explains why we don't drink a lot of straight water during the holiday season. Everyone knows these folks take holidays too.)

2.4.3
Support (The local cab company who picks up folks who really shouldn't be hopping in their cars to get home.)

While the names may change from project to project, at this slightly higher level, there's actually a chance that we may be able to leverage our history, our past experiences, and our ability to put faces to names. By doing so, we develop more comprehensive and thoughtful lists of the players we should have under consideration.

The beauty of doing this dance is that we now have the ability to identify the stakes of all the players and fantasize and plot about how they may ultimately subvert the project. If we don't work from a consistent structure, we run the risk of finding out at that in the end, we didn't meet all the needs of the critical stakeholders. At an even more rudimentary level, it clarifies for us who's "in the pool," which may be enough to ensure against subversion of our project (and holiday?) goals!

Happy Holidays. To ALL my stakeholders!


©2007 Carl Pritchard. All Rights Reserved. Published on ProjectConnections by permission of the author.

Carl Pritchard serves on the board of directors of ProjectConnections.com and is the author of The Project Management Communications ToolKit, which looks at the concept of stakeholder identification and management in depth. He is a principal with Pritchard Management Associates, author and internationally recognized speaker. You can let him know you're a stakeholder at carl@carlpritchard.com





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