One of the systems thinking tools that I use a lot is a stakeholder analysis based on core systems concepts of inter-relationships, perspectives and boundaries.
- Inter-relationships: How do things connect with each other?This is the most familiar systems concept and the oldest. Inter-relationships can be dynamic, linear and nonlinear, have degrees of sensitivity and sometimes be massively entangled, ranging from simple to complicated to complex.
- Perspectives: What are the different ways a situation can be understood?Perspectives are about how someone looks at a situation or process and what they see. This can be very different for different stakeholders and affect the understanding and effectiveness of the system. Perspectives also considers the difference between what a system is, what people think it is and what it could be.
- Boundaries: What is in and what is out?A boundary determines what is relevant, irrelevant, what is important and worthwhile. Boundaries are wrapped up with notions of power and influence, and are where discussions about value are played out and disagreements are discussed.
This analysis isn’t always a long or exhaustive process, but gives me a great introduction to who is involved in a project or organisation, what they think and where their role, involvement or influence begins and ends. It also helps to prioritise who should be involved in which aspect of the evaluation, assessment, review or analysis and what the focus of enquiry should be with them.
Stakeholder analysis is a great mapping tool that usually uncovers additional people to involve and helps to provide focus.
Have you ever used stakeholder analysis? What are your experiences with it? Would you use it? Why?