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Friday, 19 October 2012

Negative Stakeholder Management

There are positive and negative stakeholders in every project (according to PMBOK). Positive ones will benefit from project implementation, for example their work will become more effective, more automated, easier, and more fun. At the same time negative stakeholders will have problems once the project is implemented. For example, they will be fired because their job will be done by new software.

The project manger plays the major role to take negative stakeholders into account and neutralize their influence in the project affairs.
Today’s negative stakeholders can become tomorrow’s advocates if you make sure their needs are met. By listening to them, taking their needs into account, and making changes to your project so that those needs are satisfied, those previously negative stakeholders will feel good about what you’re doing... and they’ll often become your closest allies in the future.

For example, the team member felt that the design is very poor but actually it’s not. We have provided the opportunity to give input into the project design. We haven’t actually implemented the ideas provided but feels like the team member had contributed and had ownership changed, this changed the attitude of the person tremendously.
The negative stakeholder management required more on soft skills than managing as risk or issue.
Key stakeholders on every project include:
• Project manager. This is the person responsible for managing the project.
• Customer/user. This refers to the person or organization that will use the project’s product.
• Performing organization. This refers to the enterprise whose employees are most directly involved in doing the work of the project.
• Project team members. This is the group that is performing the work of the project.
• Project management team. These are the members of the project team who are directly involved in project management activities.
• Sponsor. This is the person or group that provides the financial resources, in cash or in kind, for the project.
• Influencers. People or groups that are not directly related to the acquisition or use of the project’s product, but due to an individual’s position in the customer organization or performing organization, can influence, positively or negatively, the course of the project.
• PMO. If it exists in the performing organization, the PMO can be a stakeholder if it has direct or indirect responsibility for the outcome of the project.
In addition to these key stakeholders, there are many different names and categories of project stakeholders, including internal and external, owners and investors, sellers and contractors, team members and their families, government agencies and media outlets, individual citizens and society-at-large.
Another example is, business leaders from a community that will benefit from an industrial expansion project may be positive stakeholders because they see economic benefit to them community from the project’s success. Conversely, environmental groups could be negative stakeholders if they view the project as doing harm to the environment.
In the case of positive stakeholders, their interests are best served by helping the project succeed, for example, helping the team to acquire the needed permits to proceed. The negative stakeholders’ interest would be better served by impeding the project’s progress by demanding more extensive environmental reviews.
In the same above example, another negative stakeholder is the formers. The formers loose land as their lands are taken for industrial expansion. The former expectation needs to be met by providing the proper compensation to them and providing the job preference as part of the industrial expansion.
Naturally, a negative stakeholder does not take a passive aggressive state. He will be very active in the project and he'll make it seem like he's trying to make it a success, but in reality he's always trying to damage it. Here are some examples of the things a negative stakeholder would do:
- Create a lot of change requests so that the project will never finish.
- Set up very steep quality requirements.
- Creating technical hurdles.
- Insisting that the project is in bad shape (while it really is not) and requesting corrective measures to be undertaken.
- Creating the atmosphere to make him as a more powerful and influencing person in the project

The negative stakeholders needs to be identified during the start of project or much before, as the cost of the changes caused by the influence of the stakeholder increases the cost of changes which taken during latter part of the project.

Using a few simple tools, such as the Interest / Power matrix, can produce a reliable overview of stakeholder influence over your project.


  1. To be successful in your career, a positive interaction with people working around is a key. In a similar manner, it is extremely important to identify and manage stakeholders. Stakeholder management is important to the success of every project. Involving and engaging with the right people in a positive manner is highly important for project success.

  2. Nice article, I read it just today. I wrote a while ago a similar one on the subject, in a different part of the world :)