Mapping your stakeholders

What do you do at the start of a new initiative when you need to understand people’s interests and influence and manage their hopes and concerns? Enter Stakeholder Mapping…

Steve Morris
Daemon thinking
Published in
3 min readMar 27, 2020

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Recently we’ve been working with one of our major clients on an exciting new project. As part of our Discovery phase we wanted to introduce some Design Thinking tools and techniques, specifically to help people and teams align on the wider strategic objectives and stay true to the project’s intent.

Enter Stakeholder Mapping, a great way to do that and understand all the people and teams with an interest and investment in a particular project. It’s also an important way to manage expectations and to mitigate the risks involved.

Right size, right people
It’s important to create an environment for the session to be insightful and productive. In my experience workshop teams operate best at a full team size of approximately 6–8; any more than this and it’s hard to control the room and keep a thread on all the ideas coming out. In any session like this we want attendees to be people who represent their teams and are able to take initiatives and actions forward — and being open minded is of course a pre-requisite!

What’s the problem?
A good question to ask at the beginning is ‘why are we all here?’. As one of the key goals of the sessions were to bring together all those who have a major investment in the project and its success and to get them to agree first and foremost on the problems we are trying to solve. At this point we’re not diving into discussions about predetermined implementations, we’re looking at the challenge from a business outcomes perspective through the lens of people and the teams they’re part of.

Drawing the connections
A major exercise we undertook was to draw out all the stakeholders and teams on a large whiteboard with stickies and mark our connections and dependencies between them. This helps us understand the relationships between stakeholders; it’s a revealing and insightful way to look at those involved, quite different from looking at an ‘organigram’ from a hierarchical perspective.

Contention is fine
If things get a bit contentious that’s OK — it’s to be expected and in many ways welcomed; we’re looking to uncover any issues as early as possible to minimise the risk further down the line. And getting deep into things is useful, our goal is to capture as many stakeholders and connections as as possible.

Giving people a voice
Workshops are not meetings, there’s no room for open-ended discussions that often only bring confusion and fatigue. When given clear time-boxed exercises people will readily commit to this with energy and enthusiasm, and feel they are given a voice and that their opinion matters. That’s true collaboration in action.

In a remote world
With the challenges we all face right now we’ve been thinking about how we can replicate some of these workshop sessions online. At the end of last week we used Jamboard (many other tools are available), a ‘virtual whiteboard’ software from Google. This allows us as a team to quickly collect and capture thoughts and ideas via stickies, drawings and so on. Until we’re able to comfortably co-locate again we know we have the tools available to make sure that we can carry on collaborating in this way.

Summary
Stakeholder Mapping is essential for the long term success of projects as really helps to align teams and uncovers valuable insights early. It’s a refreshing way to see the bigger picture and to gain a deeper understanding of people and the connections between them and their teams.

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