Stakeholder management is very important in order to complete the project successfully.
Your project cannot be successfully completed if your stakeholders are not happy, as project management is all about managing stakeholders and their requirements.
If your project is small and the number of stakeholders is small, you can manage them easily. However, if the project is large, the task of managing stakeholders is not easy as you will have many stakeholders, and treating them equally is a difficult task.
You have limited resources and time and you are working in a dynamic environment so you cannot treat each stakeholder equally. You have to identify stakeholders with high priority and segregate them to manage them closely. This is where the stakeholders classification model is a useful tool.
You must identify which stakeholders are important and which are not, and then you will manage the stakeholders according to their power, requirements, and interest in your project.
You will pay more attention to important stakeholders because they can affect your project objectives and devote less time to less powerful/less interested stakeholders.
To manage your stakeholders, first, you will classify them and then you will develop a strategy to manage these stakeholders effectively.
The PMBOK Guide provides you with four models to classify stakeholders.
These models are as follows:
- Power/interest grid
- Power/influence grid
- Influence/impact grid
- Salience model
In these four models, the first three models are somewhat similar and are based on two attributes. However, the fourth model, salience model, is different, and it is based on three attributes, which we are going to look at in this blog post.
The PMBOK Guide describes only one model in detail: the power/interest grid model. It does not discuss the remaining models much.
The second and third models are similar to the first, but the salience model is different, and this is what we are going to discuss in this blog post.
Okay, let’s get started.
The term salience means “the quality of being particularly noticeable, important or prominent”, and so stakeholder salience means the importance you give to your stakeholders.
Stakeholder salience can be defined as the “degree to which managers give priority to competing stakeholders’ claims in their decision-making process”.
The stakeholder salience model was proposed by Ronald K. Mitchell, Bradley R. Agle and Donna J. Wood in 1997. They proposed a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience due to confusion over the definition of stakeholders and failure to reach a consensus over ‘who and what really counts’ in stakeholder management (Mitchell et al. 1997, p.853-854).
In this model, you assign three attributes to your project stakeholders:
You classify your stakeholders based on these attributes.
Power is the authority or influence of the stakeholder on your project or its objective.
Here you determine the power of the stakeholders regarding the project or its outcome. Power can influence people to do a job in a way which other methods cannot. Power can be coercive, utilitarian, or incentive.
Legitimacy is the genuineness of involvement with your project. You don’t want to manage a stakeholder closely who does not have legitimate interest in your project
This is the legitimacy or appropriateness of the stakeholder regarding the project or its outcome. You will pay more attention to a stakeholder if their claim is appropriate or legitimate.
Urgency is the degree to which stakeholder requirements call for immediate attention. It shows how time sensitive the requirements are from the stakeholder.
Urgency depends on two factors: Time-sensitivity and criticality. Here you see if the stakeholder’s needs are time sensitive and critical. You can determine if any requirements from any stakeholders must be fulfilled on an urgent basis or not.
When you combine these parameters, you get a list of prioritized stakeholders. Now you can give priority to high-ranked stakeholders and manage them closely. In this way, you can effectively manage your stakeholders and save resources and time by giving less attention to low-priority stakeholders.
Keep in mind that stakeholder salience is not static; it is dynamic and can change as time passes. So you need to keep track of it and regularly update the model to reflect the changes.
How to Draw a Salience Model Diagram
A stakeholder salience model diagram is a Venn diagram consisting of three circles where each attribute (power, legitimacy, and urgency) is represented by a circle. The intersection of these three circles shows you the stakeholders who have multiple attributes.
In the Venn diagram, you can see seven different sections represented by seven types of stakeholders in this classification.
Stakeholders in the Salience Model
As you can see from the diagram, there are seven types of stakeholders. These stakeholders can be classified into three groups:
- Latent stakeholders
- Expectant stakeholders
- Definitive stakeholders
These stakeholders have only one attribute. Besides “power,” the other two attributes do not have any major impact on the project, and therefore, they are usually not given too much attention.
Examples of latent stakeholders are: dormant, discretionary, and demanding.
These are the stakeholders with high power but low legitimacy and low urgency. Since they have high power, they can easily impact your project objective, so you will manage them prudently.
For example, a stakeholder from top management does not take part in any meetings and has no interest in your project.
However, you will still watch them as they have power and you never know when they will change their mind.
These are stakeholders with high legitimacy but low power and low urgency. Although these stakeholders have low power and low urgency, because of their legitimacy you will try to fulfill their requirements. You will communicate with them regularly to provide status updates and progress reports.
For example, NGOs or charitable organizations can be an example of discretionary stakeholders. Though they are legitimate stakeholders, they do not have power or urgency.
These are stakeholders with high urgency but low legitimacy and low power. These are usually very vocal and may influence other stakeholders if their requirements are not met. These people always want your attention. Therefore, you will manage them carefully.
For example, you are doing an activity in a public place and some people from the neighborhood come and ask you for information and show interest in your project.
These stakeholders have two attributes: they are active and expect something from the project.
Examples of expectant stakeholders are: dominant, dangerous, and dependent.
These are stakeholders with high power and high legitimacy but low urgency. As these stakeholders have a legitimate interest in your project, you have to manage them closely. However, since the urgency is low they will be ranked below the core group.
For example, you are constructing a big building where local authorities are stakeholders, though they don’t have urgent issues with your project you will have to manage them as they have both power and legitimacy.
These are stakeholders with high power and high urgency but low legitimacy, and this is what makes them dangerous. These stakeholders can be violent and can create trouble for your project. You have to manage them cautiously because they may jeopardize your project’s success.
For example, if you are working in a remote area of a third world country, a group of local terrorists can act as a dangerous stakeholder.
The security of your team members is paramount to you; therefore, you must identify these stakeholders and find ways to mitigate the threats they pose to your team or your project.
These are stakeholders with high urgency and high legitimacy but low power. Since these stakeholders have low power in the project, you will not manage them too closely.
For example, if you are doing construction work in a public place, local residents can be an example of dependent stakeholders.
You have to monitor these stakeholders closely as they are legitimate stakeholders and the urgency is high. They may form a group or association with powerful stakeholders and can create trouble for you and your project’s success.
These stakeholders have all three attributes and require the most attention. You must manage these stakeholders very closely.
An example of definitive stakeholders is “core”.
These stakeholders have high power, high urgency, and high legitimacy. Therefore, you will pay special attention to these stakeholders and manage them closely. Sometimes this category is also referred as “definitive”.
For example, top management of your organization can fall into this category. They have power, legitimacy, and urgency.
These people are not stakeholders of your project; therefore, you will not spend time managing these people.
Strategy to Manage Stakeholders
The strategy to manage these stakeholders will be as follows:
- You will give the highest priority to the core group because this group has all the attributes, i.e. power, urgency, and legitimacy.
- 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 only one attribute associated with them. Although you will give low importance to these stakeholders, you will keep watching them because you never know when they will change their salience.
Changes in Stakeholders’ Attributes
Moreover, stakeholders’ attributes may also change; for example, a powerless stakeholder may become powerful and an illegitimate stakeholder may become a legitimate one. Therefore, your stakeholder management strategy needs to change to reflect the changes in stakeholders’ attributes.
Benefits of the Salience Model
The following are a few benefits of this model:
- This model provides you with better insight into your project stakeholders.
- It helps you save resources, time, and effort.
- This model helps you complete projects successfully with minimal obstruction.
Limitations of the Salience Model
The following are a few limitations of this model:
- Compared to other two-dimensional models, this model requires more time and effort.
- This is a subjective procedure, and some bias in opinion can significantly affect your classifications.
- Monitoring these three attributes continuously takes resources and time.
- This model assumes these attributes are either present or absent, though in reality it may vary between these two.
The objective of stakeholder analysis is to help you manage your stakeholders effectively. There are many other models to classify stakeholders based on two attributes such as power-interest, power-influence, etc. The salience model is based on three attributes: power, legitimacy, and urgency. Although this model can be more time consuming than others, it can provide you with a 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.
Here is where this blog post on the salience model ends. If you have something to share, you can do so through the comments section.