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Salience Model for Project Stakeholder Analysis

In any project, it is crucial to understand the various stakeholders involved and their respective roles, interests, and influences.

As a project manager, this knowledge and understanding give you an avenue to address concerns effectively, make informed decisions, and ultimately lead the project to success.

One widely recognized and powerful tool that enables project managers to systematically classify and prioritize stakeholders is the Salience Model.

This blog post will provide a comprehensive overview of the Salience Model for stakeholder analysis which will enable you to have a solid understanding of how to leverage the Salience Model as part of a robust stakeholder management strategy.

Project Stakeholders Overview

A stakeholder is any individual, group, or organization whether internal or external that has a vested interest in the outcome of a project.

Examples of internal project stakeholders are employees, shareholders, and key partnerships. While external stakeholders include customers, suppliers, regulators, and communities.

The success of any project depends largely on the effective management of stakeholder expectations and relationships, as well as understanding and addressing their needs and concerns.

Failing to properly manage stakeholders can put the project timeline, budget, deliverables, and outcomes at risk.

Importance of Stakeholder Analysis in Project Management

Stakeholder analysis and management are critical aspects of project management.

According to this article by sciencedirect.com, it is necessary to find an approach and engagement with the stakeholder to achieve the project’s success.

Stakeholder analysis helps project managers to:

  • Identify all relevant stakeholders and gain insight into their needs, expectations, levels of influence, and potential impact on the project.
  • Prioritize stakeholder relationships, ensuring that the most crucial stakeholders receive due attention and focus.
  • Develop tailored strategies to manage stakeholder expectations, address concerns, and mitigate potential risks.
  • Foster a collaborative environment, encouraging stakeholder engagement and building support throughout the project lifecycle.

By conducting a thoughtful stakeholder analysis, project managers can make well-informed decisions, allocate limited resources efficiently, and significantly increase the chances of overall project success.

Stakeholder Salience Model

The Stakeholder Salience Model: Components and Definitions

The Salience Model, developed by Mitchell, Agle, and Wood in 1997, is a useful stakeholder classification framework that helps project managers systematically prioritize stakeholders based on three key attributes:

  • Power: The ability of a stakeholder to directly or indirectly influence the project’s outcomes or decisions. Powerful stakeholders can exert significant control or impact through various means.
  • Legitimacy: The perception that a stakeholder’s actions, or level of involvement or interest in the project, are appropriate and justifiable. Legitimate stakeholders have a rightful claim to influence the project based on their organizational roles, responsibilities, or expressed interests.
  • Urgency: The time sensitivity and priority of a stakeholder’s key needs or concerns and its demand for attention. Urgent stakeholders may have pressing concerns that require immediate resolution or actions.

By assessing stakeholders based on these three attributes, project managers can classify stakeholders into seven distinct groups, each with varying degrees of salience:

  • Dormant Stakeholders: Low power, low legitimacy, low urgency
  • Discretionary Stakeholders: Low power, high legitimacy, low urgency
  • Demanding Stakeholders: Low power, low legitimacy, high urgency
  • Dominant Stakeholders: High power, high legitimacy, low urgency
  • Dangerous Stakeholders: High power, low legitimacy, high urgency
  • Dependent Stakeholders: Low power, high legitimacy, high urgency
  • Definitive Stakeholders: High power, high legitimacy, high urgency

Using the Salience Model for Stakeholder Analysis

Applying the Salience Model to analyze and categorize project stakeholders involves the following steps:

1. Identify Stakeholders

Begin by systematically listing all individuals, groups, or organizations with a vested interest in the project. Include both internal and external stakeholders.

2. Assess Stakeholder Attributes

Evaluate each stakeholder based on their relative power, legitimacy, and urgency. It may be helpful to use a rating scale (e.g., 1-5) to quantify each attribute.

Consider how these attributes may interact or depend on each other.

3. Classify Stakeholders

Based on their assessed attributes, categorize stakeholders into one of the seven groups defined by the Salience Model.

Double-check that you have assessed the appropriate attributes for each stakeholder before assigning them to a category.

4. Prioritize Stakeholders

Use the stakeholder classifications to inform how you allocate your time and resources, make key decisions, and develop tailored engagement strategies.

Generally, stakeholders with higher salience or priority will demand more of your focus and effort.

5. Develop Stakeholder Management Strategies

Craft your approach to managing each stakeholder group based on their unique characteristics, needs, and concerns.

Your strategy may involve communication plans, mitigation actions, alliance building, and more. Higher-priority stakeholders will likely require more detailed strategies.

6. Monitor and Adjust

Continually reassess stakeholder salience throughout the project lifecycle, as stakeholder attributes are often dynamic and may evolve positively or negatively over time.

Make adjustments to your management strategies and actions as needed to keep pace with changing stakeholder priorities or influences.

Benefits of Applying the Salience Model

Implementing the Salience Model as part of a comprehensive stakeholder analysis and management strategy offers several key advantages:

Improved Stakeholder Prioritization

By classifying stakeholders based on their relative power, legitimacy, and urgency, project managers can focus their limited time and resources on addressing the needs and concerns of the most influential and high-priority stakeholders.

Tailored Stakeholder Strategies

The Salience Model provides a structured framework for developing custom approaches to managing different stakeholder groups, ensuring their unique needs, interests, and concerns are effectively addressed.

Enhanced Decision-Making

By understanding the power dynamics, level of legitimacy, and urgency of various stakeholders, project managers can make better-informed decisions that carefully consider the perspectives and priorities of key stakeholders.

Increased Stakeholder Engagement

The Salience Model encourages project managers to proactively engage stakeholders, fostering collaboration, building alliances, and gaining support throughout the project lifecycle.

Engaged stakeholders will be more willing to provide resources and assistance to aid the project’s success.

Improved Risk Management

Identifying and prioritizing stakeholders helps project managers anticipate potential risks early on and develop appropriate mitigation strategies to address key stakeholder concerns before they intensify or derail the project.

Limitations and Challenges

While the Salience Model offers valuable insights and a useful framework for stakeholder analysis, it isn’t without unique limitations and challenges:

Subjectivity

Assessing stakeholder attributes such as power, legitimacy, and urgency can introduce subjectivity, as these factors may depend on individual perceptions, biases, or interpretations.

Multiple evaluations may be needed to actually have a balanced view.

Dynamic Attributes

A stakeholder’s power, legitimacy, and urgency are not static—they can and are likely to change over time as the project unfolds and stakeholders reprioritize.

Continuous monitoring and re-evaluation are required to keep strategies and actions aligned with stakeholders’ evolving attributes.

Overemphasis on Categories

The Salience Model’s focus on classifying and categorizing stakeholders may lead project managers to overlook the complex relationships, interdependencies, and networks that connect many stakeholders.

For a lot of projects, a more holistic view of stakeholders is needed.

Resource Demands

Conducting a comprehensive stakeholder analysis using the Salience Model, especially for large or complex projects with many stakeholders, requires a significant investment of time and effort.

Some customization or streamlining may be needed based on available resources.

Lack of Inclusion

If not utilized properly, the Salience Model could potentially justify the exclusion of certain stakeholder groups if they are not perceived as highly salient.

All stakeholders deserve a voice and should be engaged to some degree.

Conclusion

The Salience Model provides a robust, evidence-based framework for understanding and prioritizing project stakeholders based on their relative power, legitimacy, and urgency.

By evaluating stakeholders through this model, project managers can gain important insights into each group’s attributes, levels of influence, and priorities to develop tailored management strategies, make better decisions, increase engagement, and improve risk mitigation.

However, the Salience Model is most useful and impactful when supplemented as part of a comprehensive stakeholder management plan—one that considers relationships between stakeholders, monitors for changes, and ensures all groups are included and given a voice.

With awareness of both the possibilities and limitations of the model, project managers can leverage it to navigate stakeholder priorities strategically while leading their projects to success.

By integrating the Salience Model into your stakeholder management toolkit, you will be far better equipped to meet the needs and expectations of your most crucial stakeholders while navigating the complex stakeholder environment.

The time invested to understand your stakeholders will be time well spent.

David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)
David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)

David Usifo is a certified Project Management professional, professional Scrum Master, and a BCS certified Business Analyst with a background in product development and database management.

He enjoys using his knowledge and skills to share with aspiring and experienced Project Managers and Business Analysts the core concept of value-creation through adaptive solutions.

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