30 Jan, 2023
One of the first tasks we commonly undertake when engaging with a new client is to create a stakeholder map. We’re going to outline why this is such a crucial and effective exercise, and how it can vastly improve the effectiveness of your decision making.
Stakeholder mapping is the visual process of identifying and documenting all of the associated stakeholders with a project, product, team, area, idea or organisation. These are all of the stakeholders who are a part of, or who can influence what you are working on.
When doing this exercise it can be helpful to think about stakeholders wider than just your team members – these can be board members, management, people in other departments, customers, suppliers etc. Our influence goes a lot wider than our day-to-day team. We’ll get into the numerous benefits later, but the glaring benefit for a new consultant or leader is remembering people’s names!
There are multiple methods of stakeholder mapping, however the simplest method is to map out each individual, and who is connected to who. A simple example is shown below – this was created by using the “stakeholder map” template available in miro (a virtual whiteboard tool). I’ve found this easy to adapt to different scenarios and can be made as simple or as complex as your situation requires. An optional element of a stakeholder map is a classification, or prioritisation for communication. The legend below outlines a widely used four-level communication and engagement classification:
I’ve found this useful when dealing with organisation level stakeholder maps, or more complex programs with a larger level of stakeholders. The overarching question I often find myself trying to solve with a stakeholder map is – who do I need to talk to in this scenario and how much?
Among the many other reasons we map our stakeholders are:
Identify engagement level
Assist with decision making
One of the key reasons we are going to focus on is effective decision making.
Throughout creation of products and the work that we do we make multiple decisions per day, big and small.
There are different categories of decisions and a few different schools of thought on this, but a simple way of classifying decisions is the below:
Strategic – decisions which set the course of the organisation
Buffer – decisions about how things will get done
Operational – decisions that employees make each day to run the organisation
How this relates back to our stakeholders is that individuals and groups of stakeholders often have different interests and goals when it comes to the decisions we need to make. Depending on the type of decision to be made, you may need to include different types of stakeholders.
I have come across a scenario before in which one group of stakeholders had made a decision whereby they took into account their group interests and departmental direction, and had proceeded with the work. However at a program level, there were multiple other stakeholders which needed to be taken into account, least of which were the customer.
Taking a wider strategic lens could have identified that this decision impacted the whole organisation, so more stakeholders needed to be included.
Having a stakeholder map at a product/project/organisational level can be a quick and easy way to scan for all potential stakeholders that need to be taken into account for a decision and their engagement level.
Effective decision making begins with having an overall view of all stakeholders involved in what you are working on and who you are working with. Don’t miss this critical step. And above all, don’t forget your customer in the decision making process!