Managing projects through people
Managing projects through people

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Managing projects through people

3 Identifying and involving stakeholders in a project

For every project, there will be a range of individuals or groups who have an interest in the different stages of the project. It could be the end users of an IT system, the line managers who will be expected to lead a restructuring initiative throughout the organisation, or the marketing department which will promote a new product. The support of these stakeholders is essential, if the project is to succeed. Therefore a key responsibility of the project manager will be to identify these stakeholders at an early stage of the project, anticipate their responses to it, and gain and maintain their support. Their involvement can be important to the project's success or failure, as illustrated in the following example.

Lives freed by water on tap

The British charity WaterAid co-operates with communities and non-governmental organisations to install and maintain simple water systems in developing countries. It began working with Ethiopian organisations in 1991 to devise water-provision schemes for areas of the country worst affected by shortages. Employing a philosophy of community empowerment and relying almost entirely on the skills and knowledge of local staff, WaterAid has provided funds for seven projects serving some 285,000 people.

Completed in 1994, the Hitosa project is one of WaterAid's more ambitious supply schemes, which it has carried out in conjunction with its local partner WaterAction. The project, involving 75 miles of piping carrying water by gravity from a mountain spring, cost only £10 per beneficiary, but has dramatically improved the lives of those whom it serves. Until the project was completed, Ayelu Nagash spent five hours every day walking to and from the nearest water source. ‘I had to make do with whatever I could carry, which was about 25 litres. Now I have an unlimited supply five minutes’ walk from my home,’ she said.

‘Our developmental philosophy is based on community empowerment,’ said Girma Mengistu, director of WaterAction. ‘We ask each household to contribute £5 toward the project and try to involve the community from the start.’ The communities also provide labour for trench digging and pipe laying.

Eighty per cent of the funding for the Hitosa project came from WaterAid, three per cent from the Ethiopian government and the remainder from the communities that benefit from it. Once the projects are completed, a nominal charge is levied for the water, the proceeds of which are sufficient to maintain the scheme. ‘Community involvement is the key to the success of our projects,’ said Mengistu.

(Source: based on Gough, D. (1998), ‘Lives freed by tap water’, The Guardian, 30th December 1998. Copyright © Guardian News and Media Ltd)

It may not be immediately obvious who are the project stakeholders and what are their interests. For example, for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like WaterAid, a key group of stakeholders is those people who benefit from the aid that the NGO provides. As the extract suggests, involving the beneficiaries in a project means empowering them so that they can be involved in determining the outcome of the project (for example, where a well or a water pump might most usefully be sited), so that they can get the most benefit from it.

To identify the stakeholders in a project and how their interests might best be managed, a stakeholder analysis is carried out. This will enable the project manager to anticipate potential points of resistance, as well as would-be allies and champions for the project. The first step in this process is to identify the project stakeholders. This can be done by preparing a stakeholder map – a diagram showing the main stakeholders likely to need attention. Next, their interests must be identified. Finally, the project manager together with other members of project team should generate ideas on how best to manage the stakeholders, given their interests.

Activity 2: Preparing a stakeholder map

0 hours 20 minutes

You will need a piece of paper to complete this exercise

Write the name of a project you have been involved with or which has taken place where you work in the centre of the paper.

Then around the project name write the names of individuals or groups whom you believe have or had a stake in this project.

Put the most important nearest the centre.

Now, for each stakeholder individual and group, identify the following:

  1. What are their priorities, goals and interests?

  2. What specific behaviour is expected of them in relation to the project?

  3. What are their likely reactions to the project?

  4. How can their support be gained?

Discussion

The kinds of individual and group you are likely to have included in your stakeholder map are members of the project team, senior managers, colleagues in various parts of your organisation who have an interest in the project, staff in your organisation who are affected by its outcome and people in other organisations who contributed to or benefited from the project. You will probably have noted that many of their interests apparently conflict, e.g. in terms of what they want from the project, which complicates the business of securing their support. However, by identifying them on a stakeholder map, you can begin to formulate a strategy to achieve this – the stakeholder map provides a basis for managing everyone with an interest in a project. You will need to consider what relationships exist between the different stakeholders, since they may have to work together during the project or be likely to react to or influence each other's experience of the project. It is also important to realise that not all potential stakeholders are obvious at the beginning of the project; some may emerge as the project develops and they realise that their interests could be affected by its outcome. Stakeholder analysis therefore should also take into consideration the attitudes and actions of stakeholders at different phases of the project.

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