Political Map of Stakeholders

Vesa Purho
Nokia

Those who participated in the CIDM Best Practices conference in September 2005 know all about using organization politics to help drive important initiatives through their organization. Creating the political map can seem a daunting task when there are many players involved. Stakeholder mapping can be used as a tool to limit the number of players before creating your actual political map.

Creating an organization politics map, as described in Joel R DeLuca’s book, Political Savvy1, requires answering the questions listed below:

Who are the key stakeholders in your organization who affect your goal?
Who in your organization can affect whether your initiative will be approved or not? These stakeholders not only include people having an organizational-approval mandate but also those who can affect other’s decisions or have initiatives competing for the same resources and budget as yours.

 

How much power or influence do the stakeholders have?
Stakeholders might have direct organizational influence like controlling the budget or indirect influence like being respected individuals in the company whose opinions count in the decision-making process.

 

How much are the stakeholders applying their influence for or against your project?
Even though a person has a lot of power in the organization, he or she might not be interested in your project or find it currently out of scope. Some people might have personal objectives, like competing initiatives, in which case they are probably strongly against your initiative.

 

How easily can the stakeholders applied influence be changed?
Even when a stakeholder is currently against your initiative, correct communication, or a couple of selected words from the right person, may change his or her mind about your project. The stakeholder might be against the project because he or she has been misinformed of its financial implications or the customer needs. When stakeholders receive the correct information, they could change their minds.

 

What are the significant relationships among the key stakeholders?
Answering this question identifies what politics within your organization are visible. This question is about who trusts whom, who plays golf with whom, and who doesn’t appreciate whom. Getting this information may not be easy, and you need trusted people to talk to in order to figure this out, or at least you have to be very subtle in gathering the information as this typically is not something that all are comfortable with writing out on paper.

 

DeLuca describes the methodology in detail and shows the political map in graphical format. When you have created the map, you can use it to think about the communication and lobbying activities within your organization and try to ensure that your initiative gets the support it needs.

Once you start listing the stakeholders, you may end up with a large number of people. Trying to answer the rest of the questions when dealing with a number of characters can be difficult. To scale down the number of people to analyze further, stakeholder mapping, as described in my November 2002 enewsletter article, can be used as an initial screening method.

With stakeholder mapping, you have to answer only two questions: how much does a person have power to influence your initiative, and what is the person’s level of interest. When used in combination with the political mapping methodology, you don’t have to be as accurate in determining the levels of interest and power in the first analysis. With stakeholder mapping, you can identify people who don’t have much interest in, or power over, your issues and can thus be ignored from further analysis. Also, those with low power, even though they have high interest, can be mostly ignored, even though some might have important connections to the key players that could be used.

Naturally, organization politics can be used in the “wrong” way to benefit yourself, regardless of what happens to others or to the company. (These kinds of persons are referred to as Machiavellians in the book.) However, DeLuca emphasizes the ethical way of using politics for the benefit of the company and other individuals. Even though you may not apply the method in practice, the book gets you thinking about your organization’s politics in a different light and will give you some ideas that you can use in practice.

1 Political Savvy. Joel R DeLuca. June, 1999. Evergreen Business Group Publications. Berwyn, Pennsylvania. ISBN: 0966763602.

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