How Do You Analyze Stakeholders?

Every project manager is advised to do a stakeholder analysis and there are several tools for analysis. I like to use the PRINCE Accounting System because it helps in understanding the stakeholders’ political motivations. As I discussed in my last project management posting, project managers need to be politically proficient to be successful in delivering projects. The PRINCE System helps you in being politically aware.

The PRINCE Accounting System was developed in 1972 as a political science tool. The PRINCE title comes from the four actions you need to take to be “successful in the politics of life” (Coplin and O’Leary, 1976, p. 7).

  1. Probe your surroundings to figure out who are the most important actors.
  2. Interact with them to find out their inclinations and influence on the topics important to you.
  3. Calculate how to get them to behave the way you want.
  4. Execute your plans.

The first step is to decide what specific problem you want to solve. It may be acquiring resources for your project, removing a disruptive team member, or regain the trust of an executive sponsor. Make sure the goal is something that you can measure or at least determine when you have achieved the goal. Then, determine the people, groups, and other entities that stand in the way of your goal. List their stands on the issues that affect your goal.

Let’s take the example in Coplin and O’Leary’s (1976) book of a family’s issues concerning what to do for fun. Father wants to spend money on clothes, mother wants to bowl, sister wants her allowance increased, brother wants to stay out late on Friday night, and grandma wants everyone to visit her on the weekend. Make a chart with the actors on the left and their issues arranged in columns on the left. The first analysis you want to do is to determine their stand on the issues.

(+3 – Strong Support; +2 – Moderate Support; +1 – Weak Support; 0 – Neutrality; -1 – Weak Opposition; -2 – Moderate Opposition; -3 – Strong Opposition)

Now, determine the amount of power each actor has in pursuing the particular issue.

(+3 – Strong Power; +2 – Moderate Power; +1 – Weak Power; 0 – No Power)

The third analysis pass is to determine each actor’s salience on a particular issue. Salience essentially indicates how much the actor cares about the issue. Multiply the numbers and you can see the political weight each actor has concerning the issue. Add up the rows to determine the order of issues on the overall agenda.

(+3 – High Salience; +2 – Moderate Salience; +1 – Low Salience; 0 – No Salience)

Based on the chart, it looks like we are going to Grandma’s for a visit. And brother is not going to get his way anytime soon.

A final tool is a friendship-neutrality-hostility chart. This gives you a snapshot of who influences whom and can help you build effective alliances to advance your goals.

(+ – Tendency to agree with other actor; 0 – Indifference; – – Tendency to disagree with other actor)

What I especially like about the PRINCE Accounting System is that it is a good complement to other stakeholder analysis tools you might use. The two PRINCE tools are especially helpful in preparing for negotiations and dealing with conflicts.

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and do not reflect the views or opinions of my employers or any organizations I belong to and should not be construed as such.


Coplin, W.D., & O’Leary, M.K. (1976). Everyman’s PRINCE: A guide to understanding your political problems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply