Assess Your Stakeholders’ Attitudes



Series on Effective Stakeholder Engagement

By Lynda Bourne, PhD

Melbourne, Australia


Some stakeholders will love your project and be happy to provide the support you need, others will hate it and many will simply ignore it. Successful project delivery requires three key steps; for all of the ‘important stakeholders’ you need to:

  1. Assess their current attitude towards the work.
  2. Determine a realistically desirable attitude to expect of the stakeholder that will optimise the chance of success.
  3. Work out what needs to be done to shift stakeholders from their current state to the desired state.

Attitudes can range from actively supportive of the work through to active opposition to the work, and the stakeholder may be willing to engage in communication with you (even if they hate the work) or refuse to communicate (even if they support the work).

Both measures are important; to change a stakeholder’s attitude, you first need to be able to communicate with them! In fact, the only ethical tool you have to support or change stakeholder’s attitude towards the work is various forms of communication. Even if you only want to maintain a stakeholder’s current level of support communication is essential to monitor the situation and avoid nasty surprises.

The Stakeholder Circle methodology separates this critical assessment of ‘attitude’ from the prioritisation of stakeholders based on power, urgency and proximity to deal with the full spectrum of attitudes a typical project is confronted with.

The first step in the ESEI approach to assessing attitudes involves identifying the level of receptiveness and support of each stakeholder. The ranges are:


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Editor’s note: This series of articles on effective project stakeholder engagement is by Lynda Bourne, PhD, Managing Director of Stakeholder Pty Ltd (Australia) and author of the books Stakeholder Relationship Management and Advising Upwards, both published by Gower (UK). Dr. Bourne is one of the world’s leading authorities on program/project stakeholder relations. See her author profile below.


About the Author


pmwj36-Jul2015-Bourne-PHOTODr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia




Dr. Lynda Bourne is Managing Director of Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd – an Australian based company with partners in South America and Europe. Through this global network she works with organisations to manage change through managing the relationships essential for successful delivery of organisational outcomes.   Lynda was the first graduate of the RMIT University, Doctor of Project Management course, where her research was focused on tools and techniques for more effective stakeholder engagement. She has been recognized in the field of project management through her work on development of project and program management standards. She was also included in PMI’s list of 50 most influential women in PM.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) and a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). She is a recognized international speaker and seminar leader on the topic of stakeholder management, the Stakeholder Circle® visualization tool, and building credibility and reputation for more effective communication.   She has extensive experience as a Senior Project Manager and Project Director specializing in delivery of information technology and other business-related projects within the telecommunications sector, working as a Senior IT Project Management Consultant with various telecommunications companies in Australia and South East Asia (primarily in Malaysia) including senior roles with Optus and Telstra.

Dr Bourne’s publications include: Stakeholder Relationship Management, now in 2nd edition, published in 2009, Advising Upwards published in 2011, and Making Projects Work, published in 2015. She has also contributed to books on stakeholder engagement, and has published papers in many academic and professional journals and is blogger for PMI’s Voices on Project Management.

Dr. Bourne can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Lynda Bourne, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-lynda-bourne/