How to differentiate between a negative and positive Stakeholders ?

Stakeholders are the individuals and organizations who are actively involved in the project or whose interest may be positively or negatively affected as a result of project execution. Stakeholders have varying level of responsibility and authority when participating in a project which can change over the course of project lifecycle. They may have a positive or negative influence on the project.

Every project has different groups of stakeholders, most of them are listed below:

  • Project Manager – manages the project
  • Customer/User – uses the product/service of the project
  • Performing organization – the enterprise involved in performing the work
  • Project team members – the group that performs the work
  • Project management team – the team that is directly involved in project management activities
  • Sponsors – those who provide financial resources
  • Other stakeholders – Influencers, PMO, owners, investors, suppliers, end users, society, citizens
  • Influencers – People or groups that are not directly related to the use of the project’s product, but can influence, due to their profile.

In today’s world it is really very difficult to make out if the person is showing a genuine concern or just provoking you against the organization or the projects goals thereby planning to add obstacles to your project. There are many ways to find out negative stakeholders- If someone always raises problems, and never offers solutions, you can be pretty sure that he/she is a negative stakeholder. Try to analyze more than once before concluding, may be, if you think from their point of view, they might be more focused on the product/project and seeking success as planned.

The attitude of any stakeholder varies over time, the key dimensions are their willingness to communicate with you and their supportiveness / opposition. In case of no communication, no option to change the stakeholder’s attitude. To identify if the person is supportive or not look at what they do, not what they say because things said or promised are generally not implemented. Then decide if this really matters and invest your management effort in the people who are important to the project.

Often the stakeholders have concerns that they were not informed and so they we do not understand. This can be taken negatively by a project manager, who may perceive the person as being rude and uncooperative. The solution to this is creation of stakeholder engagement matrix. The current engagement level of all stakeholders need to be compared to the planned engagement levels required for successful completion of project. The engagement levels of stakeholders can be classified.

  • Unaware: Unaware of the project & potential impact.
  • Resistant: Aware of the project & potential impact, but resistant to change.
  • Neutral: Aware of the project, yet neither supportive nor resistant.
  • Supportive: Aware of the project & potential impact and supportive to changes.
  • Leading: Aware of the project & potential impact and actively engaged in ensuring the project is a success.

It is project manager’s responsibility to minimize the gap between the current and desired engagement of a stakeholder.

Management of stakeholders involves assessing the influence, interest and power of each stakeholder group and planning the project around the requirements of the stakeholder groups, ensuring their buy-in and active support for the project in the initial stages only.

The list of negative stakeholders contains financial stakeholders, like materials suppliers, can use their influence and production to demand greater financial benefit. Third party vendors can negatively affect the project through time and cost overruns. Political stakeholders can also be proved to be negative if left unidentified.

The responsibility and authority of a stakeholder ranges from rare contributions in few meetings to complete project sponsorship, which includes providing financial and political support.So it is important to complete the stakeholder analysis before proceeding. The Project stakeholder management is a new knowledge area of PMI-PMP course. If a project manager has done this bit thoroughly, half the battle is won, as stakeholders play very significant role in the failure or success of any project.


About Aditi Malhotra

Aditi Malhotra is the Content Marketing Manager at Whizlabs. Having a Master in Journalism and Mass Communication, she helps businesses stop playing around with Content Marketing and start seeing tangible ROI. A writer by day and a reader by night, she is a fine blend of both reality and fantasy. Apart from her professional commitments, she is also endearing to publish a book authored by her very soon.
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