Adversarial Project Stakeholders. Influencing Projects with Options
Stakeholders are considered the key driving force and most important critical success factor on every project. They fall into two basic categories, namely, the internal or primary stakeholders who are contractually or legally bound to the project and normally have a vested interest in its success, and the external or secondary stakeholders who have no active role in the project but who are being affected by it in the positive or negative sense and who consequently may adopt a supportive or hostile stance towards the project. The entities in the latter group, known as the adversarial stakeholders, may actively seek the project’s prevention, disruption or even premature termination by excercising their power against it through application of a number of ‘options’ which lie at their disposal. It is thus important for project practitioners to be aware of these options in order to prevent their application or at least seek to minimize the detrimental effects on their projects which may result therefrom.
Based on an in-depth analysis of over fifty high-profile, well-documented and controversial completed and on-going projects primarily in construction and in civil infrastructure in several developed and developing countries, this research has identified a broad spectrum of soft and hard options which adversarial stakeholders have used, often successfully, against the projects studied. Our research has determined that while some options are universally applied regardless of project location, others tend to be country and/or context specific. Effectiveness of the options depends on myriad factors such as the stakeholders’ access to information, their awareness and ability to network and organize against the project, and enlist media and public support for their cause. Furthermore, adversarial stakeholders have a higher likelihood of achieving their objectives in countries where democratic as opposed to authoritarian systems are prevalent.
PMI Talent Triangle Skill: Leadership