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The Iconic Onion: How to manage your project’s stakeholders

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Stakeholder management step by step

If you’re about to embark on a construction project, or any other kind of project, you’ll find it goes much smoother if all your stakeholders are on board with what you’re trying to achieve. If you are the business owner and the works will be to your property, you might think that you’re the stakeholder and your feelings are the ones that count. It’s true that you are an important stakeholder in your project but you’re not the only one.

A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in, or who is affected by, your project and its outcome.

Engaging with your stakeholders will help you to avoid conflict. You want to avoid conflict in your project because it can lead to delays, additional costs or even failure to meet your project objectives. It will certainly cause you a lot of hassle.

Stakeholder management is the process of managing the expectations and the requirements of your project’s stakeholders. This step-by-step guide will show you exactly how to go about that.

Stakeholders: who are they?

The first step in the stakeholder management process is to work out who your stakeholders are.

If you think about all the people who fall into this category, you might find that it’s quite a list. It could include internal folk such as employees working with the building, members of your project team, company executives, etc. There will be external stakeholders too and they may include customers, suppliers, partners and the government.

Stakeholders are not just the people who will be positively affected by your project; you need to consider those who will be negatively affected too. For example, imagine you’re planning to open a new nightclub. You will need to consider the views of local residents who may be resistant to your scheme.

Five questions

You can work out who your stakeholders are by asking these questions:

  • Who will be affected (both positively and negatively) by your project? This might be your employees and customers or local residents.

  • Who has an interest in your project? This could be competitors, other local businesses and potential customers. What is the breadth and scale of their interest?

  • Who has power over your project? This will be whoever is providing the financial backing for your project and probably also the planning authorities.

  • Who wants your project to fail? Why? This will possibly include your competitors or local residents.

  • Who wants your project to be successful? Why? This will probably be your employees, suppliers and financiers.

The next step in the stakeholder management process is to define who has the most power over your project. This tells you where the effort to communicate, inform, manage and engage should be placed. You should consider your stakeholders in terms of power/interest and divide them as follows:

High Power/ High Interest (Fully Engage)

These stakeholders are the key players. While you will have to spend the most effort on engaging with them, you should keep them informed at all times. Your financiers will belong in this group.

High Power/ Low Interest (Keep Satisfied)

Make enough effort to keep these stakeholders satisfied. But refrain from going overboard with your communication efforts because you will bore them. Planning authorities probably belong in this group because, whilst they have a great deal of power over your project, they have no real interest in the outcome.

Low Power/ High Interest (Keep Informed)

You should provide enough information on the project to these people to make them feel engaged and ensure that they don’t have any issues with the project. They will most likely be your employees, customers and local residents.

Low Power/ Low Interest (Minimum Effort)

Monitor these stakeholders’ interest in the project and provide them with adequate information without overloading them. Your suppliers might fall into this group.

It is helpful to covert this data into an onion graph. This is a visual and easy to understand organisation chart to help you to manage your time and effort in the most appropriate way.

Project Manager

Your project manager should be at the root of the onion with the layers arranged like this:

The Iconic Onion of Stakeholder Management

Once you have identified who your stakeholders are and how they should be managed you can move to the final planning stage. Here you should establish what you want from each stakeholder and identify the messages, actions and communications that you need to convey. You can then add these actions to your project timeline and implementation plan.

As you can see, stakeholder management can be managed in a straightforward way. As long as you provide all your interested parties with the right level of communication you should be able to keep everyone pulling together to achieve your project objectives.

Of course, stakeholder management is a key part of your project manager’s role. If you think you could use some help with managing your project’s stakeholders, please contact us.


Elizabeth Hewitt

Director of Marketing at Iconic Project Management Limited. We specialise in retail, leisure and commercial construction.

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