Opinionhavers are the new stakeholders
Practice proactive reassurance

(28 February 2023)

Prompted by a question from Hinrich von Haaren on LinkedIn, I’ve been thinking of “stakeholders” as “opinionhavers”; people who have an opinion about the work being discussed.

How you deal with them depends on why they have an opinion in the first place.

The word “stakeholder” tends to suggest a person whose success depends on your work. If they have a stake in it, presumably they’ve invested time or money or effort or something into ensuring its success.

I prefer “opinionhaver” because I’ve noticed that some have opinions because they have a stake in the work. But many others have opinions just because they want to be involved, or feel like they ought to be consulted. It’s not quite the same thing.

So, I think a large chunk of what we usually call “stakeholder management” is actually “opinionhaver insight”. It’s the job of understanding the minds of all the opinionhavers - not just what their opinions are, but why they hold them. It includes finding out:

Opinions come in many shapes and sizes. There are opinions that really matter to everyone, and some that only matter to the opinionhaver concerned.

There are opinions that are shared widely, and opinions that people hoard and keep to themselves. Opinions you really should pay attention to, and opinions you can probably leave to one side.

Everyone’s got an opinion. Right?

The art of proactive reassurance

In my opinion (lol), working in the open helps you understand the minds of your opinionhavers by bringing them closer to the truth. They get to see, more closely and more frequently and more easily, what the current status is.

In that respect, working in the open is an exercise in proactive reassurance. Openness means honesty means truth. As I say all the time in my training workshops, truth takes courage. But truth also influences opinions - for the better, I’d say.

The more you work in the open, the better your opinionhavers understand you; because they know more clearly where you’re at. And the better they understand you, the more clearly they can adjust their opinions as the work goes along, and provide helpful guidance. Opinions, yes; but perhaps slightly more useful ones.

giles (at)