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Appendix A.3 Tools for identifying & understanding your audience(s)

Positioning Charts

Positioning charts show the relationships among people, groups, or other elements of a problem in terms of their positions. The chart usually shows two factors important to the problem as the height and width of a space, with the people or alternatives arranged in the chart according to where they fit on the two dimensions. For the sample chart, different strategies can be chosen for dealing with different stakeholders according to whether they support or oppose the proposal and by their importance to its success. As shown here, placing stakeholders on a positioning chart helps identify what different approaches or strategies will be most effective for the different positions. Resources could be wasted on trying to generate greater support for those with low ability to help, or failing to recognize antagonistic stakeholders could damage prospects for success.

What are they?

Determine relationships among people, factors. Positioning charts can be useful for any situation where two different factors influence the way you would view a participant or element of a project. It is often useless to produce charts with influences or interactions among more than two factors, since they become very complex to construct and interpret.

Plot people, alternatives based on position. The relative position of participants or project alternatives are plotted on the chart to display the relationships among those factors.

What are they good for?

Understand project influences. This type of chart allows you to better understand the way two separate factors influence the place of a participant or project component in your project. For example, the components of an information system project could be classified on a positioning chart in terms of two dimensions: their development times and the degree to which other components are dependent on their completion. Components with short development times and low dependence can be scheduled with much more flexibility than long-term, high dependence components.

Communication. Representing this kind of analysis in a positioning chart is not only a good exercise, but also an effective device for communicating the results to others.

Some limitations and considerations

Three's a crowd. If more than two factors are important in positioning, as is often the case, a chart of this type is of limited value.

Somewhat arbitrary process. Placing the people or components on the chart is often an inexact, even arbitrary process. Without actual measurements of the dimensions, substantial errors can be made in positioning, which results in flawed conclusions.

Interpretation of the Stakeholder

Oversimplify relationships. A chart may also oversimplify relationships in a complex setting, especially when more than two dimensions are involved or the relationships are not stable over time.