Project management is about managing stakeholders’ expectations. If they are not happy, you cannot complete your project successfully.
Small projects have fewer stakeholders, so you can manage them easily. However, larger projects are difficult because of the huge number of stakeholders.
With limited resources and a stressful environment, it is difficult to treat every stakeholder equally. Every stakeholder has different requirements and expectations. So, identify and classify your project stakeholders, find these requirements and expectations, so you can manage them.
Classifying stakeholders is an important process. Here you separate stakeholders as per their power, interest, urgency, etc. After classification, you will develop your stakeholder management strategy.
The PMBOK Guide describes four models to classify stakeholders:
- Power/interest grid
- Power/influence grid
- Influence/impact grid
- Salience model
The first three models are similar and use two attributes. The fourth model uses three attributes. The PMBOK Guide did not explain this model and therefore many other PMP exam reference books ignore the concept.
However, in this blog post, we will study the salience model to classify project stakeholders.
Salience means “the quality of being particularly noticeable, important or prominent.” So stakeholder salience means the quality of a stakeholder or their importance.
Stakeholder salience can be defined as the “degree to which managers give priority to competing stakeholders’ claims in their decision-making process.”
Source: CNM Wiki
The stakeholder salience model was proposed by Ronald K. Mitchell, Bradley R. Agle and Donna J. Wood in 1997.
Here, a stakeholder has three attributes:
Power is the authority or influence of the stakeholder on your project or its objectives.
Focus on stakeholders with high power. These stakeholders are fewer in number.
Legitimacy is how genuinely involved a stakeholder is with your project. You should not spend your time on a stakeholder who doesn’t have a legitimate interest.
Pay attention to stakeholders with legitimate claims.
Urgency is the degree to which stakeholder requirements call for immediate attention.
Urgency depends on two factors: time-sensitivity and criticality. You will find out whether any requirement is time-specific or if mere fulfillment is important.
You will identify your project stakeholders and assign them attributes. Afterward, you prioritize stakeholders according to their attributes. Based on this ranking you will develop the stakeholder’s management strategy.
This will save time and help you win stakeholders’ support.
Stakeholder salience is not static; it is dynamic and can change during the project life cycle; update the stakeholder register to reflect the changes.
Stakeholders in the Salience Model
A stakeholder salience model diagram is a Venn diagram comprising circles representing three attributes: power, legitimacy, and urgency. The intersection of circles shows stakeholders with multiple attributes.
Based on these attributes, you can classify stakeholders into seven groups.
To develop your strategy, you divide these groups into three categories:
- Latent stakeholders
- Expectant stakeholders
- Definitive stakeholders
These stakeholders have one attribute. Besides “power,” the other attributes are not significant; therefore, they receive little attention.
Examples of latent stakeholders are: dormant, discretionary, and demanding.
These stakeholders have high power, low legitimacy, and low urgency. Being high power, they can impact your project, so you will manage them carefully.
A stakeholder from top management does not take part in meetings and has no interest in your project.
However, you will still watch this stakeholder as they have power and you never know when they will change their mind.
These stakeholders have high legitimacy, low power, and low urgency. Although they have low power and low urgency, you will fulfill their requirements because of their legitimacy.
NGOs or charitable organizations are examples of discretionary stakeholders. They do not have power or urgency, but they are legitimate stakeholders.
These stakeholders have high urgency, low legitimacy, and low power. They are usually vocal and can influence other stakeholders if their requirements are not met. These stakeholders want attention. You will manage them carefully.
For example, your project is in a public place, and residents from the neighborhood show interest in your project and ask for information.
These stakeholders have two attributes: they are active and have expectations of the project.
Some examples of expectant stakeholders are dominant, dangerous, and dependent.
These stakeholders have high power and high legitimacy but low urgency. As these stakeholders have a legitimate interest in your project, you will manage them closely. Since the urgency is low, their rank is below the core group.
For example, you are constructing a building where local authorities are stakeholders. Though they don’t have urgent issues with your project, you will manage them closely as they have both power and legitimacy.
These stakeholders have high power, and high urgency but low legitimacy, and this makes them vulnerable. They can be violent and can create trouble for your project. You will manage them cautiously.
For example, suppose you are working in a remote area of a third world country, and in this case, a group of local terrorists can act as dangerous stakeholders.
The security of your team members is paramount. You must identify these stakeholders and mitigate the threats they pose.
These stakeholders have high urgency, high legitimacy but low power. Since these stakeholders have little power, you will not pay as much attention.
For example, if you are doing construction work in a public place, local residents can be an example of dependent stakeholders.
You will monitor these stakeholders closely because of their legitimacy and high urgency. They may form a group or associate with powerful stakeholders and can create trouble for you if their requirements are not met.
These stakeholders have three attributes and require the most attention. You will manage these stakeholders closely.
An example of definitive stakeholders is “core.”
These stakeholders have high power, high urgency, and high legitimacy. You will manage them closely.
This category is also referred to as “definitive.”
The top management of your organization can fall into this category.
These are not stakeholders of your project, so you will not manage these people.
Strategy to Manage Stakeholders
You will manage your stakeholders as follows:
- You will give the highest priority to the core group because this group has all the attributes.
- The next highest priority should be given to dominant, dangerous, and dependent stakeholders because they have a mix of any two attributes.
- The lowest priority group consists of discretionary, demanding, and latent because they have one attribute. You will give little importance to these stakeholders but observe them because you never know when they will change their salience.
Changes in Stakeholders’ Attributes
The project environment is dynamic, so you will continuously get new stakeholders and lose old ones.
Stakeholders’ attributes can change as the project progresses. A powerless stakeholder may become powerful, and an illegitimate stakeholder may become a legitimate one.
You should update your stakeholder management strategy to reflect the changes in stakeholders’ attributes.
Benefits of the Salience Model
The benefits of the salience model are:
- It provides you with better insight into your stakeholders.
- It helps you to save resources, time, and effort.
- It helps you complete projects with minimal obstruction.
Limitations of the Salience Model
The salience model has the following limitations:
- Compared to other models, this model requires more time and effort.
- This is a subjective procedure, and bias in opinion can influence its effectiveness.
- Monitoring three attributes continuously take resources and time.
- This model assumes attributes are present or absent, though, they may vary between these two.
The salience model helps you manage your stakeholders effectively. Although this model is more time consuming than others, it provides you with better analysis and understanding of your stakeholders. This model lets you focus your energy on important stakeholders and keeps you from wasting your time on less important ones.
What do you think about the salience model for stakeholder classification? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.