Avoiding Subjectivity in Stakeholder Analysis

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Avoiding Subjectivity in Stakeholder Analysis
As correctly stated in the excellent article above, any stakeholder analysis is typically the sum of the SUBJECTIVE PERCEPTIONS of the management team of the company. This means that if these perceptions are incorrect, the stakeholder analysis will also be incorrect. This could have devastating consequences for the strategy of the firm.
I am looking for ways how such subjectivity in Stakeholder Analysis can be decreased or avoided altogether. Who can help me?

Avoiding Subjectivity: Assumptions Exercise
Jim Burke
Perceptions are tied closely to assumptions and one way to address that is to gather the key stakeholders for an assumptions exercise. That, then, puts forth the basis for the perceptions.
A technique taught me about 10 years ago helps smoke out those assumptions. Picture a graph, with a time line on the bottom/x axis and a metric on the left/y axis. Ask the stakeholders to draw trend lines about how the metric will be measured over the time line. For example, the metric could be profit or it could be customer satisfaction. Have everyone draw their lines on a tablet sheet (which you have prepared beforehand) and then transfer that to a large wall chart. Ensure that the senior stakeholder goes last. In the US, at least, the lines go every which way. The chart looks like a bowl of noodles. You then ask why the line was drawn like it was and out comes the assumptions which can be used to filter the perceptions.

Reports and Senior Qualified Personnel
To eliminate or reduce the level of perception or subjectivity of a stakeholder analysis, two key issues comes to the fore; pre-determind outcome before interviewing of stakeholders and lack of ability to capture right information from the respondents. Executives who manage what I call " IN - OUT - IN STRATEGY " Thus what we think should be the same as our stakeholders, build reports to validate that. The right approach should allow the company strategy to be influenced by what stakeholders think and want to have their companies do for them. Secondly, senior and qualified personnel must at all times be used for such key exercise.

Avoiding Subjectivity
Martin Buenger
The stakeholders analysis is always based on experience and intuition of the management. This is one of the limitations of this instrument. You can ask for reasons for the assessment, but this tends to be circular. An intuitive alternative would be to test it with a constellation.

Avoiding Subjectivity With Stakeholders
John Jenkins
In a pure sense this probably not possible, as the information in use will always be 'a matter of opinion'. Where 'stakeholders' are concerned we do not have reliable statistical data or 'hard' facts to use; the data will probably always be of the 'soft' type. If one accepts that as a given, then 'reducing subjectivity' becomes either a process based on aggregating a number of views, opinions or assumptions to identify 'common ground' or similarities OR of collecting a variety of disparate views that can be contrasted and compared to 'map' the scope of the differences. OR both approaches can be blended, depending on the circumstances and the purpose of the work. My experience has been that however you approach this subject 'meaningful dialogue' is an essential prerequisite to any productive work with 'stakeholders'.

Avoid Subjectivity towards Stakeholders
Claude Balleux, Member
First, excuse my English. I think that this kind of exercise will never be objective. Because people are not able to answer without thinking about themselves. But if you ask employees (even if they are senior personnel) to do this job, that could raise the risk of subjectivity.

Network Analysis for Reducing Subjectivity in Stakeholder Analysis
Victoria G. Axelrod, Member
Jim Burke's approach can be taken a step further by using Formal Network Analysis. Perception is reality - teasing out the assumptions behind the perception will give you the rationale for the perception, but so what?
Take climate change as an issue - for every set of "objective" data claiming human peril, there are others who will marshal their "objective" data dismissing. Both are credible. How does one balance both scenarios?
Network analysis affords us a map of the stakeholders world view or reality (perceptions/assumptions) and more importantly their degree of influence on others.
When we are working with the interactions of complex stakeholder groups we need to concern ourselves with influence power of stakeholders and the associated risk of their views and less on whether their perceptions are "objective" or "subjective".
Their perceptions are their reality. That is why we bring a wide mix of stakeholders in to the conversation.


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