Uncovering Where the Power Lies in Your Projects
Many people can have influence over your projects. Some influencers are obvious and easy to spot. Others are less obvious, but are no less significant.
If you fail to recognize and "manage" these influencers, you'll most-likely experience unexpected resistance to your projects, and sometimes bewildering failure.
This is increasingly the case as you run large projects, and as the number of people affected by your projects increases.
People within your organization, at least, are supposed to work together openly and willingly. However, even here, your boss, your teammates, your customers, your boss's boss – even the CEO's nephew in the mailroom – can all impact you, given certain sets of circumstances.
However, people outside your organization have all sorts of interests and motivations that you can't control. Here, knowing who influences who can be critical if you want to get anything done at all.
So do you understand who has influence over your projects? Do you know the nature, direction, and strength of these influences? After all, using the normal "chain of command" may not always be the best way to advance your objectives: knowing who the real influencers are can help you determine where you should put your effort if you really want to succeed.
This is what influence mapping* is all about – discovering your project's true stakeholders (not just the obvious ones) and the influence relationships between them. This helps you target the key influencers so that you can win the resources and support you need to reach your goal.
Influence maps are a natural extension of Stakeholder Analysis. Your project's success can depend on identifying its key stakeholders and then managing the various relationships between them. Stakeholders have the power to help or hurt your initiatives, so stakeholder management is an important aspect of project management. For more on this, see our Winning Support for Your Project Bite-Sized Training.
The Elements of an Influence Map
An influence map is a visual model showing the people who influence and make decisions about your project. The map helps you understand how stakeholders relate to one another, so that you can quickly see the way in which influence flows.
Remember that even the most powerful people rarely act alone. Top executives and other people in authority rely on advisers. Find out who the advisers are, and understand how they operate. This can be vital to your project's success.
There are three main considerations when you construct an influence map:
- The importance or weight of a stakeholder's overall influence (represented by the size of the circle representing that stakeholder).
- The relationships between stakeholders (represented by the presence of lines or arrows between them).
- The amount of influence stakeholders have over others (represented by the heaviness of the lines drawn between them).
Your completed influence map shows the stakeholders with the most influence as individuals with the largest circles. Lines (arrows) drawn to other stakeholders indicate the presence and strength of influence.
We'll use an example to illustrate.
You've proposed a new organizational structure that will encourage people to work in business units with cross-functional teams. You know this is a huge change, and you want to make sure it's well supported within the company before you try to implement it.
The most obvious stakeholders are...