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Spheres of Influence

written by: dansar • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 3/18/2012

So, you have identified your stakeholders. Congratulations. Now what? This article discusses a way to analyze these stakeholders to get the most out of each of them for your project - a way to look concurrently at the attitude, interest and power of each stakeholder for efficient communication.

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    The Setup

    This is a follow-up to my earlier article on Stakeholder Identification. The PMBOK® Guide covers Stakeholder Analysis as a tool and technique under the Identify Stakeholders process group. An excellent article on stakeholder analysis has already been written on Bright Hub by Ronda Levine, providing some examples.

    I’d like to build on that and provide you with a couple of further references – and a new dimension, literally – with a model that includes not just Power versus Interest, or Interest versus Attitude, but all three: Power, Interest, and Attitude, all together.

    The newest (4th Edition) PMBOK(R) Guide lists four classification models:

    • Power/Interest grid
    • Power/Influence grid
    • Influence/Impact grid
    • Salience model (classes of stakeholders based on their power, urgency, and legitimacy)

    The model I share with you, in my opinion, excels at taking aspects of all of these and getting it into one graphic from which you can start to literally see your stakeholders in a different light.

    The model (credited to Lucidus Consulting, see Lucid Thought 24) uses the three axes of Attitude, Power, and Interest, each running from negative to positive extremes, with a node at each extreme.

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    What To Do

    Here's what to do.

    Think of each stakeholder in terms of attitude, influence, and power.

    Attitude: Are they supportive? Are they detractors? Where do they fit on this scale?

    Power: Regardless of attitude, can they influence the project for better or for worse? In others words, what can they DO with their attitude?

    Interest: How deeply "invested" is the stakeholder in the project's outcome?

    Compile a list of your stakeholders and rate them along these three attributes, perhaps using a scale of positive 1, 2 and 3, and negative 1, 2, and 3. Look for extremes. See the image below as an example (click for a larger view).

    spheres 

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    Using the Model

    The model uses the three axes of Attitude, Power, and Interest, each running from negative to positive extremes, with a node at each extreme. This yields eight “spheres" (cubes in the original article) with the following names:

    • Trip Wire: Low Power, Low Interest, Negative Attitude
    • Time Bomb: High Power, Low Interest, Negative Attitude
    • Acquaintance: Low Power, Low Interest, Positive Attitude
    • Sleeping Giant: High Power, Low Interest, Positive Attitude
    • Irritant: Low Power, High Interest, Negative Attitude
    • Saboteur: High Power, High Interest, Negative Attitude
    • Friend: Low Power, High Interest, Positive Attitude
    • Savior: High Power, High Interest, Positive Attitude

    Turning now from analysis to management, each of these “personalities" for your stakeholders can be approached with a separate, special strategy. For example, the Sleeping Giant is a possible source of tremendous support for your project. They have the power and attitude to help; they just need to be “awakened" to the possibilities of benefit that the project offers them. You can see how this analysis helps mold the ways in which you should communicate with the different sets of stakeholders identified here.

    The book, Practical Project Risk Management: The ATOM Methodology, by David Hillson and Peter Simon, describes this model in good detail and has a suggested strategy for each of the stakeholder types.

    hillsonsimonbook 

    The “Spheres of Influence" version of the model is my own, used to caricature the eight points in their model to help convey the idea more powerfully.

    I suggest you use this model during your next stakeholder analysis. After you’ve fully identified the set of stakeholders, put them through this analysis to see where they fit – and develop a separate custom strategy for communications with each of these stakeholders.

    Try a particular stakeholder to test the model. You can do this by thinning about risk (particularly the negative side of risk - or threat).

    For example, you could imagine the regulatory agencies you need to deal with as a sample stakeholder. Where do they fit in this model and why? Now just repeat that thinking with other stakeholders once you have a handle on how to deal with them.

    By using these Spheres of Influence, perhaps you can stop going around in circles with your project stakeholders!

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    References

    Practical Project Risk Management: The ATOM Methodology, by Dr. David Hillson and Peter Simon

    50 Lucid Thoughts - obtain from http://www.lucidusconsulting.com/Publications/Published-books-(1)

    Image of book cover is public domain, image of stakeholder "Spheres of Influence" was created by me, based on the similar figure in "Practical Project Risk Management: The ATOM Methodology", with permission from the author.