Salience Model: Stakeholder Engagement Management

Stakeholder management is one of the central parts of project management. The stakeholders have vital role in the success of your projects, that’s why you need to make them well engaged and happy with your project deliverables.

The PMBOK Guide describes four models to classify stakeholders:

  1. Power/interest grid
  2. Power/influence grid
  3. Influence/impact grid
  4. Salience model

The first three models are similar and use two attributes. The fourth model uses three attributes. The PMBOK Guide did not explain this model and therefore many other PMP exam reference books ignore the concept.

Salience Model

Salience means “the quality of being particularly noticeable, important or prominent.” So stakeholder salience means the quality of a stakeholder or their importance.

Stakeholder salience can be defined as the “degree to which managers give priority to competing stakeholders’ claims in their decision-making process.”

The stakeholder salience model was proposed by Ronald K. Mitchell, Bradley R. Agle and Donna J. Wood in 1997.

Here, a stakeholder has three attributes:

  1. Power
  2. Legitimacy
  3. Urgency

Power

Power is the authority or influence of the stakeholder on your project or its objectives.

Focus on stakeholders with high power. These stakeholders are fewer in number.

Legitimacy

Legitimacy is how genuinely involved a stakeholder is with your project. You should not spend your time on a stakeholder who doesn’t have a legitimate interest.

Pay attention to stakeholders with legitimate claims.

Urgency

Urgency is the degree to which stakeholder requirements call for immediate attention.

Urgency depends on two factors: time-sensitivity and criticality. You will find out whether any requirement is time-specific or if mere fulfillment is important.

You will identify your project stakeholders and assign them attributes. Afterward, you prioritize stakeholders according to their attributes. Based on this ranking you will develop the stakeholder’s management strategy.

This will save time and help you win stakeholders’ support.

Stakeholder salience is not static; it is dynamic and can change during the project life cycle; update the stakeholder register to reflect the changes.

Stakeholders in the Salience Model

A stakeholder salience model diagram is a Venn diagram comprising circles representing three attributes: power, legitimacy, and urgency. The intersection of circles shows stakeholders with multiple attributes.

Based on these attributes, you can classify stakeholders into seven groups.

  1. Dormant
  2. Discretionary
  3. Dominant
  4. Dangerous
  5. Core
  6. Dependent
  7. Demanding

To develop your strategy, you divide these groups into three categories:

  1. Latent stakeholders
  2. Expectant stakeholders
  3. Definitive stakeholders

Latent Stakeholders

These stakeholders have one attribute. Besides “power,” the other attributes are not significant; therefore, they receive little attention.

Examples of latent stakeholders are: dormant, discretionary, and demanding.

Dormant Stakeholders

These stakeholders have high power, low legitimacy, and low urgency. Being high power, they can impact your project, so you will manage them carefully.

A stakeholder from top management does not take part in meetings and has no interest in your project.

However, you will still watch this stakeholder as they have power and you never know when they will change their mind.

Discretionary Stakeholders

These stakeholders have high legitimacy, low power, and low urgency. Although they have low power and low urgency, you will fulfill their requirements because of their legitimacy.

NGOs or charitable organizations are examples of discretionary stakeholders. They do not have power or urgency, but they are legitimate stakeholders.

Demanding Stakeholders

These stakeholders have high urgency, low legitimacy, and low power. They are usually vocal and can influence other stakeholders if their requirements are not met. These stakeholders want attention. You will manage them carefully.

For example, your project is in a public place, and residents from the neighborhood show interest in your project and ask for information.

Expectant Stakeholders

These stakeholders have two attributes: they are active and have expectations of the project.

Some examples of expectant stakeholders are dominant, dangerous, and dependent.

Dominant Stakeholders

These stakeholders have high power and high legitimacy but low urgency. As these stakeholders have a legitimate interest in your project, you will manage them closely. Since the urgency is low, their rank is below the core group.

For example, you are constructing a building where local authorities are stakeholders. Though they don’t have urgent issues with your project, you will manage them closely as they have both power and legitimacy.

Dangerous Stakeholders

These stakeholders have high power, and high urgency but low legitimacy, and this makes them vulnerable. They can be violent and can create trouble for your project. You will manage them cautiously.

For example, suppose you are working in a remote area of a third world country, and in this case, a group of local terrorists can act as dangerous stakeholders.

The security of your team members is paramount. You must identify these stakeholders and mitigate the threats they pose.

Dependent Stakeholders

These stakeholders have high urgency, high legitimacy but low power. Since these stakeholders have little power, you will not pay as much attention.

For example, if you are doing construction work in a public place, local residents can be an example of dependent stakeholders.

You will monitor these stakeholders closely because of their legitimacy and high urgency. They may form a group or associate with powerful stakeholders and can create trouble for you if their requirements are not met.

Definitive Stakeholders

These stakeholders have three attributes and require the most attention. You will manage these stakeholders closely.

An example of definitive stakeholders is “core.”

Core Stakeholders

These stakeholders have high power, high urgency, and high legitimacy. You will manage them closely.

This category is also referred to as “definitive.”

The top management of your organization can fall into this category.

Non-Stakeholders

These are not stakeholders of your project, so you will not manage these people.

 

Strategy to Manage Stakeholders 

You will manage your stakeholders as follows:

  • You will give the highest priority to the core group because this group has all the attributes.
  • The next highest priority should be given to dominant, dangerous, and dependent stakeholders because they have a mix of any two attributes.
  • The lowest priority group consists of discretionary, demanding, and latent because they have one attribute. You will give little importance to these stakeholders but observe them because you never know when they will change their salience.

Changes in Stakeholders’ Attributes

The project environment is dynamic, so you will continuously get new stakeholders and lose old ones.

Stakeholders’ attributes can change as the project progresses. A powerless stakeholder may become powerful, and an illegitimate stakeholder may become a legitimate one.

You should update your stakeholder management strategy to reflect the changes in stakeholders’ attributes.

Benefits of the Salience Model

The benefits of the salience model are:

  • It provides you with better insight into your stakeholders.
  • It helps you to save resources, time, and effort.
  • It helps you complete projects with minimal obstruction.

Limitations of the Salience Model

The salience model has the following limitations:

  • Compared to other models, this model requires more time and effort.
  • This is a subjective procedure, and bias in opinion can influence its effectiveness.
  • Monitoring three attributes continuously take resources and time.

This model assumes attributes are present or absent, though, they may vary between these two.

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