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Prioritizing Stakeholders With a Power/Interest Grid

written by: Rupen Sharma, PMP • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 7/31/2010

You are conducting a Stakeholder Analysis and need a way to assess the relative power/interest of each stakeholder. The Power/Interest grid is a helpful tool for such a situation. Let’s walk through an example.

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    The Power/Interest Grid is created by gauging the power and interest of each project stakeholder. The grid illustrates the power/interest relative to other stakeholders as well. Before you use the Power/Interest grid for stakeholder prioritization, you need to have a list of stakeholders and have their interest in the project documented.

    Gauging the interest of a stakeholder is not as easy as it seems. For example, you might ask a stakeholder who is remotely connected with the project about his interest in the project, and she will most probably say, “That’s an interesting project!" It is for this very reason you should dig deeper.

    You can do this by asking direct and indirect questions. For example, if the stakeholder expresses a high level of interest, then you might want to explore whether the stakeholder has any conflicting interests or the motivational factors that lead to the high level of interest. If you can't gauge the level of interest of stakeholders, you'll need to manage the risk appropriately.

    Unlike Interest, Power is substantially easier to quantify. Project stakeholders usually have formal and informal authority. You can get the formal authority from the organizational hierarchy. However, don’t just consider formal (by designation) authority. Many stakeholders may not have the designation but have significant informal authority, which can then be used to influence the outcome of a project.

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    Example of a Power/Interest Grid for Stakeholder Prioritization

    Suppose you are kickstarting a new project. The project involves the creation of a software application for a client. The project has the following stakeholders:

    • Architect: Jacob
    • User Experience Lead: Samantha
    • Testing Lead: Masakali
    • Client Site Project Manager: Om
    • Business Development Manager: Mora
    • Competitors: XYZ Organization
    • Project Sponsor: Clark
    • Project Auditors: Ram and Tikku

    For simplicity's sake, I have mentioned a small number of stakeholders. Typically, there are more. Looking at the list above, one possible Power/Interest Grid for stakeholder prioritization is shown below. (Click image for a larger view.)

    PowerInterestMatrix Example Depending on the project scenario, the Power/Interest grid may evolve.

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    Key Points in the Power/Interest Grid for Stakeholder Prioritization

    To understand the key points in using the Power/Interest grid for stakeholder prioritization, let’s look at an example.

    Suppose in a project audit, it was found that the cost of the project is going too high. The project sponsor, who was in the Keep Informed quadrant, may demand more frequent project updates and hence may need to be managed more closely. In this case, the project sponsor would move up to the Manage Closely quadrant.

    Similarly, as a project manager, if a certain aspect of the project, such as application performance, is not doing well, you will need to monitor it more closely. The person with the most power and interest to influence the application performance is the architect. In such a scenario, the power of the architect in ensuring project success would increase. Hence, you would manage him/her closely.

    As you can see, the communication for the stakeholders varies with the project and the project scenario. The key here is that you should know that stakeholders that are in:

    • High Power, High Interest quadrant need to be fully engaged. These are the stakeholders you spend the most time and effort in managing.
    • High Power, Low Interest quadrant must not be bored with over communication. Leave the micro details out. For example, a major faux-pas would be to send these stakeholders the daily team meeting notes.

    For communication to be effective, you should know and understand your audience.