Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who Has Power? A Tool to Assess Client Organizations.

In a previous post I discussed the importance of assessing a client’s organization, specifically its 3P’s – Principles, People and Processes.  Some of this information comes through regular interactions, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. It takes more intentional efforts to dig deeper and uncover what really makes an organization tick. This will help improve client retention and build stronger client relationships with the right people.

The Relationship Diagram
In addition to the client interview, which I described in my last post, I want to share a different tool that focuses mostly on the “People P.” The Relationship Diagram helps identify key influencers, those with the real power to make things happen, or not. It’s similar to the diagrams a smart detective will draw to figure out relationships and power in the Mafia organization. 

How to Build It
First, identify the issue at hand like, “which clients do we need to influence to make this project a success." Then list the key players on a sheet everyone can see. Start with your client and ask, "does my client influence X or does X influence my client?"  Depending on the strength of the influence, draw a solid or dashed line in the direction of the influence. Now, we know that influence goes both ways and if it’s equal between the parties, then draw two solid lines going in opposite directions. But be careful here, that should be an exception rather than a rule. Someone usually has more influence in a relationship.

Complete the diagram by going around to all the individuals and asking that same question. You’ll end up with something like you see above (simplified here for explanation purposes):

Influencer Analysis
When complete, stand back and ask, who has the most arrows going out? These are the big influencers in the organization for your particular project. In the example here, Sara, the CFO, has more arrows going out than anyone else and therefore has significant influence. Then the question is, do we have a relationship with her? If not, who will develop one and how do we build it?  What’s her profile? What does she care about?

Bottleneck Analysis
Then, look at who has most arrows going in. These folks are key because they represent a decision junction, which are often bottlenecks. It’s critical to know these people as well. In the case shown here, Paul, the CMO, has more inward arrows than anyone else. Better make sure he is on board with whatever you are trying to achieve.

Summary
The Relationship Diagram helps identify key influencers and relationships that are important for project success. It should be a working document since more information about clients may change the direction of an arrow or add a new player to the mix. It’s also a very helpful tool to orient new team members on a project.

Try it out! This is more art than science and practice will make it, maybe not perfect, but better pictures of your client's organization.


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