Dear Negative Stakeholder,

How are you?  It’s been way too long since we last chatted!  I know that you are probably not happy that I am calling you “negative.”  “What’s up with that?,” you are thinking.

I am a very positive person, you might even think.  “I used to be a cheerleader!” you may say.  “Or, I love the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders!” you may also counter.

If you are my husband.

So what’s up with that, Kiran? you are thinking right now.  You don’t even know me and you are sending me this letter, all up in my face and throwing around words like “negative.”

Well here is the thing.  “Negative” stakeholders are not always bad.  As a matter of fact, they can be quite, quite important for the success of any project.  As long as you can identify them and understand the concerns that may be motivating their um.  hmmm.  Lack of support.

And negative stakeholders can be good people.  Quality individuals.  For example, there were plans to open up a hospital near my house.  I was ok with this, as I am kind of accident prone and thought this could work out in my favor.

But some people were NOT ok with it.  They did not want this hospital anywhere near our little town, thank you very much.  They picketed, sent letters of protest and went to town meetings to raise their concerns.

They were nice people.  Positive people, actually.  But they were “negative stakeholders” in this particular situation.

So now, I just have to try to be a little less accident prone because its twenty minutes to the closest hospital.

Here are some other examples of other negative stakeholders you keep company with.

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Example 1:

Project:

Beef Industry – Eat More Meat Campaign.  Marketing rehaul designed to educate people on how red meat is just misunderstood.  So eat more meat.  Moo.

Negative Stakeholder:

PETA

Example 2:

Project:

MTV launches new season of Tila Tequila. Goal is to increase viewership to the channel by 10%.  An expensive advertising project has been put into place to drive viewership.

Negative Stakeholder:

Anyone with taste

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So the point is that great people, WONDERFUL people, can be negative stakeholders.  So don’t be offended.

When I start a project or kickoff an implementation, it is really important to me that I know who you are. There may be twenty smiling faces in the kickoff meeting, but I can usually figure out who you are within the first hour or so.  Something about your smile.  And perhaps the type of questions you ask.

Like when you ask me how long before I leave.

There are reasons you may question the project.  Perhaps it is concern that a new analytics solution cannot be trusted, because you just got comfortable learning the last one, and why do I have to go and rain on your parade now?

You may feel that there is a possibility that some of the automated reporting will somehow replace some of your co-workers.  I know that sometimes this is a concern, but let me tell you, analytics does not replace people.  It empowers them.

You may be annoyed because this new project is going to cause you a lot more work.  You are already stretched thin with some recent layoffs that occurred and replacement headcount has not been added.

I don’t know what your story is just yet, but I am going to find out.  You may have a lot of great points to consider for the success of this project.  It could be that I can actually turn this around and make you a “positive” stakeholder.

Or it could be that you will continue to be a thorn in my side be a real joy to work with as you find ways to undermine everything I do to push this project forward bring forward a new and fresh perspective.

Ultimately, I want this project to succeed.  I want your company to succeed.  I want YOU to succeed.

Even though you may not have the same agenda for me.

Thanks for keeping me on my toes.  It helps my calves look nicer in heels.

Sincerely,

Kiran

6 comments
Reuben
Reuben

Bravo! :) As always love reading your blog posts.

Jason
Jason

Fantastic post. I find it really dangerous when companies identify people that offer their feedback as "negative", just because they don't agree with you on everything, doesn't mean that they aren't truly interested in the success of the products you are offering.

Ian
Ian

Having a negative stakeholder in the room can be very handy. It certainly helps deal with those "why didn't anyone think of this" outbursts up front!

Sabina Park
Sabina Park

Kiran, What a wonderful blog. I'm extremely interested in your company! I definately agree that Bravo! should be used more often Molto Bene! Sabina

Caty
Caty

This is probably the most entertaining Omniture blog post I have ever read. Bravo!

Kiran Ferrandino
Kiran Ferrandino

Caty, Thanks so much for the bravo! You even added an exclamation point (!). That made me feel a lot better, after a dismal Monday. I think the world would be a better place if we said bravo more often. (Maybe I should add it to my signature? . . . ) Caty. Bravo! (See, didn’t that make you feel good?) Kiran