What Is A Stakeholder?

On April 25, 2013

Recently I looked at some stats for Google searches and saw that the question ‘What is a stakeholder?’ has a significantly high number of searches which I thought was interesting.

Wikipedia says a stakeholder is a person, group, organization, member or system who affects or can be affected by an organisation’s actions. I am comfortable with this definition (although I am not sure about ‘system’) but the context in which a stakeholder exists is worthy of greater discussion.

Firstly, not all stakeholders are equal, but how do we prioritise. There are ranking tools that you can use if you want a precise ranking but commonsense is probably the most efficient tool. There will always be stakeholders whose impact on your organisation or project could be greater than others. It could be governments, banks or the community. Priority stakeholders are not static and will change with the needs of the organisation or project.

The focus of stakeholder identification and prioritisation must be the outcomes that the organisation or project is trying to achieve. Once this is clearly articulated, the people likely to support or oppose these outcomes become clear. You can start to identify the regulators or governing bodies that could impact on the outcomes and so the list of key stakeholders develops.

When the list is complete, it is worth doing some analysis. As a minimum, it s worth looking at the concerns of each stakeholder and the important things they value.

A final thought about who your stakeholders are. We are often asked the question ‘How do we manage the angry mob?’ The answer is quite simple, try to avoid making them angry in the first place. The quickest way to anger stakeholders is to forget to included them or ignore them when they make themselves known to you.

Sometimes stakeholders can self-select. They can determine that the organisation or project will have an impact on them and therefore want to be heard.

So try to identify as many stakeholders as you can from the outset but always leave the door open to the unseen stakeholders to what to participate in a discussion about or organisation or project.