How to Assess a Project Audience’s Power and Interest

In any project that you manage, your project audience will affect the project outcome. The audience’s impact on a project depends on the power it has to exercise and the interest it has in exercising that power. Assessing the relative levels of each helps you decide with whom you should spend your time and effort to realize the greatest benefits.

Defining power and interest

Power is a person’s ability to influence the actions of others. This ability can derive either from the direct authority the person has to require people to respond to her requests or the ability she has to induce others to do what she asks because of the respect they have for her professionally or their affinity for her as a person (achieved power). In either case, the more power a person has, the better able she is to marshal people and resources to support your project.

On the other hand, a person’s interest in something is how much she cares or is curious about it or how much she pays attention to it. The more interested a person is in your project, the more likely she is to want to use her power to help the project succeed.

Assessing levels of power and interest

An audience’s relative levels of power and interest related to your project are rated as either high or low. You then have four possible combinations for each audience’s relative levels of power and interest:

  • Low-Low

  • Low-High

  • High-Low

  • High-High

The particular values of an audience’s power and interest ratings indicate the possible impact they may have on your project and, therefore, the relative importance of keeping that audience interested and involved in your project.

Most often, you base the assessments of an audience’s power over and interest in your project on the aggregated individual, subjective opinions of

  • Yourself

  • Your team members

  • Members of your project’s other audiences

  • People who have worked with the audience on other projects

  • Subject matter experts and/or members of the audience themselves.

If you assign a value of 1 to each individual rating of high and 0 to each individual rating of low, you’d rate an audience’s power or interest as high if the resulting average of the individual assessments were 0.5 or greater and low if it were below 0.5.

Typically, drivers and supporters have higher levels of power over your project than observers.

Using a Power-Interest Grid

A Power-Interest Grid represents the four possible power-interest combinations as distinct quadrants on a two-dimensional graph. As the project manager, you should spend a minimal amount of time and effort with audiences who have low levels of both power and interest (Quadrant I); increasingly greater amounts of time and effort with audiences that have a low level of power and a high level of interest (Quadrant II) and a low level of interest and a high level of power (Quadrant III), respectively. You should spend the most time and effort keeping audiences with high degrees of both power and interest (Quadrant IV) informed and involved.

Involve audiences with different levels of power and interest in your project.
Involve audiences with different levels of power and interest in your project.

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