Project Relationship Management and the Stakeholder Circle™
bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before
them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet
Keywords: project management, stakeholder management, Stakeholder Circle.
|Return to Alphabetical Paper Index|
Download a copy of the Stakeholder Circle software from:
Project Relationship Management and the Stakeholder
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Project Management at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia: [view RMIT DPM program].
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Project success and failure is related to stakeholders’ perceptions of the value created by the project and the nature of their relationship with the project team. This dissertation demonstrates a link between the successful management of the relationships between the project and its stakeholders, and the stakeholder’s assessment of a successful project outcome. The project’s success, or failure, is strongly influenced by both the expectations and perceptions of its stakeholders, and the capability and willingness of project managers to effectively manage these relationships within the organisation’s political environment.
A stakeholder management methodology and visualisation tool, the Stakeholder Circle™, was developed to assist in this process and was the foundation for this research. The Stakeholder Circle™ is based on the premise that a project can only exist with the informed consent of its stakeholder community. The methodology supported by the tool provides an effective mechanism for assessing the relative influence of a project’s stakeholders, understanding their expectations, and defining appropriate engagement procedures to influence the key stakeholders’ expectations and perceptions for the benefit of the project.
There are four themes to the research: the first theme is to identify reasons for project failure and to define the link between project success and stakeholder management. The second theme is refinement and testing of the Stakeholder Circle™ methodology and visualisation tool to support the building and maintenance of project relationships. The third theme is to gauge the methodology’s effectiveness in building and maintaining robust project relationships. Finally, the fourth theme is to identify the skills and willingness of project managers to build these relationships with the support of the tool.
This research adopted a qualitative approach. Data were collected through interviews, document analysis, observation, and from the results of the iterative refinement cycles of the Stakeholder Circle™. Case study descriptions of the six participant projects provided a rich picture of the project and the organisation, and supported interpretation of the resulting profiles of each project’s unique stakeholder community. The iterative methodology refinement resulted in a practical methodology that was refined until there were no further adverse comments from the research participants.
Findings from the research can be categorised into three groups. The Stakeholder Circle™ was evaluated as an effective tool that can support project teams in identifying the ‘right’ stakeholders to engage; the second was an understanding of the level of capability and willingness of people in different organisations to manage project relationships. Finally, serendipitous findings about the relationship between the profile of stakeholder community as shown by the Stakeholder Circle™ and the informal power structures of the performing organisation have aroused interest in the project management community.
The research contributed to the body of knowledge in at least five areas. The first three areas are concerned with the combination of existing theories to address gaps noted in the literature. The first contribution presented an interdependent model of project success. This model incorporates a balance of focus on delivery of value, the management of risk and building effective relationships. The second gap was the lack of a dynamic process to identifying the right stakeholders for the right time of the project lifecycle. The refinement of the prototype Stakeholder Circle™ and its development for practical use addressed this gap. The third gap related to the personal qualities necessary to build and maintain relationships with key stakeholders. This gap was addressed through an identification of cumulative levels of skills and experience building to ‘wisdom’ – the project manager’s willingness and capability to use the Stakeholder Circle™ to build and maintain robust project relationships for project success.
The final two areas are concerned with practical benefits. A decrease in failed projects should benefit organisations and their management through a consequential decrease in wasted funds and resources. The project team should benefit from use of the Stakeholder Circle™ methodology and tool by sharing knowledge about each of the stakeholders, and through this sharing, and enhancing the building of team relationships. These experiences can contribute to the growth of the project team members along the path to ‘wisdom’. Through the additional knowledge the project team gains, the organisation can increase its ‘knowledge capital’.
new approaches to project relationship management in the form of the
theory implicit in the Stakeholder Circle™
methodology and visualisation tool should benefit the profession
through improving the chances of project success. These approaches
should in turn increase the value of projects to organisations, and
with their continuing success, improve the reputation of the project
Author: Dr. Lynda Bourne