Infuence Mapping - How To Lead Your Project To Success

Even the most powerful people rarely act alone. The decisions they make are usually influenced by their coworkers and advisors.

Understanding the nature and intensity of these changes can be vital to your project’s success. Recognizing the stakeholders of your project is what influence mapping is all about.

Where should you start? First of all, you need to discover who your true stakeholders are. When doing this, remember a few things:

Who Are Your True Stakeholders?

  • Usually the CEO and the CFO have the biggest impact on organization-wide changes, but it is not always so; in some cases the hierarchy doesn’t reflect the amount of influence, so it’s advisable to check everything carefully.
  • Influence is not static. Relations are always changing. Making influence maps on regular basis helps you monitor the situation and be aware of new circumstances.
  • Stakeholders may be both organizations and people, so make sure you identify the correct individual stakeholders as well as organizational stakeholdlers

Learning About Stakeholder Relationships

Now you may have a long list of people who have an impact on your project. The next step is to gather as much information about your stakeholders and relations between them as possible. To do this you need to answer the following questions:

  • Who do they influence, and who has impact on their decisions?
  • What is the intensity of the influence?
  • Why is the stakeholder interested/not interested in the success of your project?
  • How well are they informed?
  • What does the organization need from this particular stakeholder?

Stakeholder Groups

After you have found out who your true stakeholders are, you should divide them into groups: (a) static/weak, (b) dynamic/weak, (c) static/strong, and (d) dynamic/strong.

Stakeholders in groups A and B are the easiest to deal with. Stakeholders in section C are powerful and can influence other people’s decisions, but their reactions are predictable. Stakeholders in group D require the biggest amount of management attention as they are powerful and their reactions are difficult to predict. You should monitor their expectations for the project regularly and make sure they are well-informed.

Constructing Your Influence Map

When all of that is done, you can start constructing your influence map. Mark the most powerful stakeholders with the biggest circles. Use the size of the circle to indicate the intensity of the influence. Use arrows to mark relations between stakeholders. Thicker lines indicate stronger influence, and two-way arrows mean that influence flows in both directions.

Mark people who are interested in the success of your project with green, those who are your critics with red, and the neutral ones with orange.  Put the most influential stakeholders on the top of your map, and place smaller circles lower down.  Now your influence map should look similar to this:

Why influence Maps Matter

Constructing influence maps regularly, you can become more effective and create an appropriate environment for developing your project. If you manage to get support from the most influential stakeholders, you will have more opportunities for reaching your goals. By considering their opinion you not only gain their support, but improve the quality of your project as well.

If the influence is not positive, you should create strategies to manage the opposition. Take time to uncover the root causes of the changes, so you can understand the underlying relations between your stakeholders and predict their reactions.

The following references were used in preparing this post. You may find them interesting for further information about influence mapping.

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