Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder Circle® Methodology

The Stakeholder Circle® has been designed to put stakeholders on the ‘project management radar’. It incorporates a proven methodology supported by a robust, easy to use tool that guides you through five easy steps to:

  • Identify your project’s stakeholders and understand their needs
  • Prioritize the stakeholders based on their power, proximity and ‘urgency’
  • Visualize the key stakeholders using the Stakeholder Circle®
  • Engage with the stakeholders, by building and implementing an effective communication plan based on the stakeholders supportiveness and receptiveness
  • Monitor changes over time (using the Stakeholder Engagement Profile) to analyse the effectiveness of your communication as you update and review your stakeholder community at key points in the project.

The five phases of the methodology are explained in more detail below. The underlying research is described in our List of Papers, available for free download.

Our experience suggests the use of a small focus group, or facilitated workshop, significantly enhances the outcomes from applying the Stakeholder Circle methodology. Research by the Georg-August University in Germany suggests groups are up to 30% better at performing judgement tasks than individuals (which supports similar conclusions made in James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds). The probable reason for this is the group members learn from each other during the decision making processes needed to assign values to each stakeholder.


Identification of a project's stakeholders is a process of developing a list of those who are impacted by the project or will impact the project, positively or negatively. Project team members and individuals from the organization familiar with the project's deliverables and constraints, and the organization's structure and politics should be involved in developing the list. Participants should include:

  • Core team members who will be responsible for ongoing management of the project, and
  • The sponsor to contribute knowledge about the culture and power relationships of the organization.

Identification can be done through brainstorming or any other process commonly used in the organization. After a set of stakeholders have been identified, they need to be categorized into:

  • Upwards - senior managers of the organization;
  • Downwards - part of the project team;
  • Outwards - stakeholders outside the project, such as end users, government, unions, shareholders; and
  • Sidewards - peers of the project manager, such as other project managers.

The process of reaching agreement on these categories will often require the team to negotiate an acceptable outcome. This is followed by identifying what each stakeholder requires from the project as well as the significance of the stakeholder to the project. This information is entered into the Stakeholder Circle and validated. Once complete, the next step 'prioritization' of the identified stakeholders can commence.


The assessment of each stakeholder's importance to the project is based on ratings from the project team members of the stakeholder's perceived power, proximity and urgency. These assessments are combined within the tool to produces an 'index' for each stakeholder. The stakeholders are then ranked based on their 'index' (the higher the index value, the higher the priority) to produce a prioritized list of stakeholders.


The ranked list of all stakeholders is used to develop the communication plan.

The top 15 stakeholders are mapped into a symbolic stakeholder community, depicting their relative importance through color coding, and the size and placement of the segments of the Circle. This diagram provides valuable pictorial information to assist in understanding the stakeholder community for that phase of the project. Categorization and charting of key stakeholders holds the key to targeting the right stakeholders at the right time in the life of the project and providing them with the right level of engagement, information and communication.

To understand the diagram, see: Reading the Stakeholder Circle


The visualization tool charts a project's key stakeholders according to their ability to influence the project's success or failure. Defining appropriate responses requires an understanding of each stakeholder's levels of support and receptiveness to messages about the project: this is the engagement strategy and the precursor to a targeted communication plan.

The data available in the tool and collected from earlier parts of the process are inputs to developing the engagement strategy. Knowing the category of a stakeholder will provide the key to how the message should be developed and delivered:

  • The communication to a senior manager will need to contain only the information, and in the format necessary to provide management will essential data about the project
  • Messages to team members will need more detail and different language.

Knowing the expectations of the stakeholder in the form of 'what each stakeholder requires from the project' helps the project team deliver focused information designed to assure the stakeholder that what they expect to gain from successful delivery of the project will be achieved.

The resulting strategy defines for each stakeholder the tailored messages most likely to be effective communications; including who, what, when and how they will be delivered.


Project managers must then convert the strategy into action! This involves integrating the communication plan into the project schedule and reporting on it through team meetings and regular reports.

However effective the implementation of the communication plan; its effectiveness will diminish over time. The project's stakeholder community changes as stakeholders move within the organization or leave it; or their relative importance to the project, or their power and influence changes. Also, as the project moves through the different phases in its lifecycle, different stakeholders may have more or less of an impact, and as a consequence, their levels of importance, and communication requirements will change.

To maintain currency, the stakeholder assessment process may have to be repeated in whole, or in part, many times. To be most effective, the project team should update their assessment regularly, particularly as the project progresses through the phases of its lifecycle or as the stakeholder community changes to reflect the dynamic nature of the project's many relationships. Through review and re-assessment of a project's stakeholder community, a history of stakeholder involvement and importance, and decisions made about their engagement is maintained; providing a means to monitor the effectiveness of engagement strategy and communications over time.