Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholder Mapping is a graphical illustration of how your stakeholders feel towards your change project or program. It helps you to identify who you need to influence and what action you need to take.

It's probably one of the most powerful change management activities on WorkshopBank and a must-do activity for any project manager.

Stakeholder Map Example Relationships
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  • check
    To identify the scale and scope of issues and problem areas in any change process.

When Would You Use It?

  • Early in your project. Identify the key stakeholder groups early and map their dispositions at the outset.
  • Revisit in later stages as you evaluate efforts to improve positive attitudes and engage stakeholders.

Are there any rules?

  • Never print or leave your map lying about – there are legal ramifications for maintaining information about individuals.
  • Also, be aware that the data in your stakeholder map represents your perceptions about other people – and they may not necessarily agree with you! So it is wise to keep this sensitive information very confidential.

What is a “Stakeholder”?

  • Typically you can think of stakeholders as: ‘Anyone who has a stake in the change initiative’ although this can be a bit broad.
  • A more workable definition might be: ‘Anyone who can make, or break, your change project’.
  • This group of more specific stakeholders can be segmented into four major groups – Sponsors, Change Teams, Reference Groups and Users.

What are the different types of “Stakeholders”?

  • Sponsors (or project owners) are often those who initiate change by mobilizing the resources needed and charging people with the responsibility for getting it done. Sponsors own the requirement for change – and if the requirement changes they must direct the change project accordingly.
  • Change Teams are those charged with the responsibility for executing the change and ensuring it happens. The change team is responsible for coming up with the solution to the change requirement.
  • Reference Groups include those people that change teams must refer to in order to arrive at the right solution. They ensure that the change will work.
  • Users are a broad group of people who benefit from the change solution. (Note: The Reference Group and some of the Change Team may also be classed as Users. This is often a good idea).
Stakeholder Mapping Types

The types of stakeholders you might have


  • 1
    Draw the stakeholder map with two axes:
  • The X axis represents the spectrum of dispositions toward your change project; from Against at one extreme – to For at the other.
  • The Y axis represents the spectrum of involvement from high at the top to none at the bottom.
Stakeholder Map Axes

Note: the Y axis intercepts at the mid-point of the X axis. This represents a position on the X axis equivalent to a neutral disposition – neither for, nor against, the change.

  • 2
    The group discusses each stakeholder in turn determining their location on the map by rating their relative disposition towards your project and the degree to which they are actively involved in it (use the Example Dispositions slide to help you decide where each should sit).
Stakeholder Map Example Dispositions

Note: Two stakeholders may both be actively involved, but have quite opposing dispositions towards your project: one actively undermining it while the other is actively promoting it.

  • 3
    This worked example illustrates some typical stakeholder disposition towards a school change initiative. Ideally you would want everyone to be at the top right-hand corner – actively involved and championing your project! But this example shows a broad landscape of diverging dispositions that is more typical.
Stakeholder Map Worked School Example

Note that in addition to the disposition of each stakeholder we have added one further dimension: the degree to which each stakeholder can influence the change is reflected in the size of the circle used to denote that stakeholder. This dimension reflects one aspect of the underlying political situation.

  • 4
    The last step in the mapping exercise is to add a final dimension: this is the relationships that exist between stakeholders.
Stakeholder Map Example Relationships
  • 5
    In the effort to shift dispositions to a more favorable situation you might want to exploit the relationship that exists, say, between a strong supporter of your project and someone else who remains skeptical or even cynical.

Secret Sauce

  • It is wise to know how each of the broad groups of stakeholders is disposed towards your change project, e.g. are they actively supportive, or unsure, skeptical or even against the change? Stakeholder mapping illustrates these dispositions – so that you can determine what action you need to take in order to shift unfavorable dispositions more positively.
  • The size of the circle is important dimension to the success of change. You want the most influential stakeholders on the right of your map and migrating to the top so if they’re not you need to work out a way to get them there.
  • Note that relationship can be negative as well as positive. The assumption can be that all relationships are positive ones. If you think it is relevant, you might want to illustrate a negative relationship by a broken line.
  • Be careful, because stakeholder maps can contain the identities of individuals. There are legal ramifications for maintaining information about individuals.

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About the Author

Nick Martin helps leaders & consultants improve team results with resources, advice & coaching through

  • Well set out tool Nick – clear, useful and actually does some stuff with stakeholder analysis that is beneficial as opposed to theoretical and static.

  • Mara Svenne says:

    This is a good technique, but I’m not clear on how to run it as a workshop. I would instead do this as a Business Analyst, at the start of my project, perhaps working in conjunction with the Project Manager.

    • It’s true many activities can be run in isolation of a wider team but you miss all the good stuff that comes with having everyone’s buy-in if you do it that way. It can quickly become “well that’s your opinion but it’s not mine” whereas if there are many people involved in creating the original map you reach shared understanding much faster.

  • Tess says:

    Hi Nick,

    Great tool to add to a new leader or project managers toolbox. Simple easy to use and a great way to encourage them to work “on the project rather than in it”.


    • Or ‘on the project rather than against it’ as is often the case (especially with senior stakeholders just outside the project group).

  • Steve g says:

    Love some of the ideas; however the lines linking stakeholders misses the potential of the bond – positive or negative – improving or deteriorating, conciliatory from one whilst antagonistic from the other

    • That’s a great build Steve. Maybe you could have different coloured lines for the different types of bond?

  • Good Morning Nick!

    This might be one of the best and most useful examples of mapping stakeholders that I have seen. One of the first activities that I undertake is the analysis of stakeholder groups. I had often thought about the best method to graphically represent and I think I have found it! Thanks!

    Where I can see this useful is using it over time to see how the mapping changes as you execute the change. Some sort of time lapse slideshow can show the effectiveness of the change plan.

    Thanks for sharing this great tool.
    Happy Holidays,

    • And a good morning to you too Chris. I love your idea of showing a timelapse slideshow / animation as the project proceeds. That would be a fantastic way to give sponsors the sense of real progress wouldn’t it?

  • Tracie says:

    This is a great concise tool that I plan to use in my BA arsenal in conjunction with a Project Management posture. This tool is easy to understand and straight to the point, thanks for sharing.

    • Pleasure Tracie. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it.

  • Bharat Sarvepalli says:

    This is a great representation of Stakeholder mapping. Though, I have been using variants of this diagram in my work, I like the way the stakeholder relationships have been mapped.
    Thanks Nick! It would be nice to read another article on how we can measure the degree of influence of a stakeholder.

    • Thanks for your comment Bharat. I don’t know of a tool on how to measure degree of influence but I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere. I’ll keep my eyes out for one and try to get it on here for us all to use.

  • Hi Nick, very creative! I’m going to use it from now on. I created a method that I use in organizations and projects to optimize results (cost and time schedule reduction without affecting quality). The difference of my method is that (since 1982) I use neurophychological principles that make sound results. In the first step I coordinate (I am civil engineer) my psychologists to make a sociogram of the different persons/groups that are involved in the contract; it is a diagram of the interpersonal relations: who behave that way, why, etc. I was very happy when in 1995 Daniel Goleman published “Emotional Intelligence” because during the first 13 years my colleagues were very suspicious with the use neuropsychology in engineering projects. And my method grew in credit after Goleman.

    • This sounds very interesting José. Would you like to share your technique in more detail with the rest of our community here? If you would please send me an email and we can set something up.

  • Marcina says:

    We’ve been testing different stakeholder maps. This looks quite practical and impactful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nicole Nucinkis says:

    Hi Nick!!
    Thanks for your helpful tools which I hope I can apply in November, in a workshop in Bolivia .. with participants from other latin american countries 🙂
    I like stakeholder maps and have used some other models before. However, many times -as in the ‘target’-stakeholder map (above), the sponsors are in the center while the beneficiaries end up on the outside. Which, when working with a government, doesn’t look so great. As beneficiaries and co-workers of a project (whose ownership we need to strengthen) they need to see themselves in the middle and the others (sponsors, etc) as support, specially if we are working towards sustainable changes. What image/model of a stakeholder map can you recommend me to use??

    Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Nicole
      Thanks for your comment. Just to be clear the ‘target’ diagram above isn’t the stakeholder map per se but a graphical illustration of the stakeholder types involved in any project. The stakeholder map, in this method at least, are the xy graphs below the target and the sponsors and beneficiaries could appear anywhere on the axis depending on how involved they are in the project and how for or against the change they are.

      The hope in any project is to have the sponsor in the top right (‘involved’ and ‘for’ the change). But they might not be and this map will show you whether that’s the case or not.

      You raise a great point about how the individuals mentioned on the map will feel about your perception of their position. Sometimes, in politically sensitive situations, it’s best to keep this map out of the public eye so as not to antagonise. Sometimes, though, a little antagonism might be exactly what you need to get things moving in the right direction.

      You need to decide 🙂


      • Nicole Nucinkis says:

        Dear Nick, Thank you very much for your quick reply!! And thanks for the clarifications … I think it will depend on how the group goes!!!

  • Garrett says:

    Really appreciate what you’ve done. Do note that point 4 in the process is stated twice (see #5).

  • Ian Henderson says:

    Thanks Nick, this is a really useful and powerful tool

  • Thomas Nilefalk says:

    I’m already registered, that’s why I come back here often 😉 But it seems that I don’t get the email with the promised free downloads…

    • I’ve resent the slides to you Thomas. Hopefully your firewall will let them through to you this time 🙂

  • […] you have done your Stakeholder Map and you’re wondering what you do […]

  • Mirriam Sewela says:

    Love it❤️

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