Who are YOUR stakeholders?

Joan F. Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California - February, 2003

Amazing, how questions float up in your mind when you hear yourself say something out loud. A few days ago I was telling my students about the environment of organizations. I am a business instructor at a local university and my students arrive from all majors in this institution since a basic management class is definitely one of the core necessities in responsible career performance, whatever that career may be.

Led by our management book, we made a distinction between the general and the specific environment of an organization, and how important it is to know what elements these environments consist of. Basically, the general environment contains phenomena such as, the natural, legal, political, global, and social environment of the organization. The specific environment, which is the determinant when considering actions of any kind by the organization, is comprised of entities such as suppliers, customers, competitors, legal institutions, and labor unions or, as I prefer: co-workers in the broadest sense of the word.

Reflecting on this conversation I started wondering who MY stakeholders are. After all, today's management gurus such as Tom Peters continuously encourage us to perceive ourselves as businesses, right?

So, who are the stakeholders of Me, Inc.?
Here’s what I came up with after some contemplation:

1. My family (children, spouse, parents, siblings), because they matter most to me. Many of the things I do are inspired by- or derived from the fact that I feel a certain responsibility toward these people.

2. My friends. Although I personally don't count too many among those, I know that the few I labeled as such, will at least lend a listening ear or a shoulder when I need it, vice versa.

3. My co-workers (including supervisors and subordinates). As a telecommuter I don’t meet them very often, but there are those among us who spend a significant part of their lives in the work environment. Depending on the setting of one's workplace, colleagues can therefore be a crucial group of stakeholders in one's life and decision-making processes.

4. My employer. Although this is mainly an institution, there is still an important relationship in existence here: I sell my product to this place, and "it" pays me for that. The interdependence is obvious and—hopefully--mutually rewarding.

5. My students. For some of you this group of stakeholders may carry another title such as clients, customers, or patients, to name a few. This is just in one general description: the group one serves from a professional standpoint. They are the direct customers of my service and I depend on their interest in my product to continue doing my job.

6. My conscience! This is the personal version of the legal institution in the case of organizations. If I make a decision that is unethical according to my individual set of principles, my conscience will start troubling me with sleepless nights and a general feeling of discomfort. Although management- and ethics books will teach you that you should question all your decisions on, 1) withstanding the family proof (what if my family finds out about this?), and 2) withstanding the publicity proof (what if this gets published in tomorrow’s newspaper?), the conscience sorts a much deeper effect: even if family and newspapers will never know, the conscience will! I therefore consider my conscience an important stakeholder in my decision-making processes.

7. My intelligence/intuition. Although these are basically two different phenomena, they hold a similar level of importance: some decisions will be made with a clear insight in all options and, hence, merely require your intelligence as a decision maker. Other decisions will be harder to make due to lack of crucial information. These will require a more intuitive approach: the "going-with-your-gut-feeling" type of thing.

In my case the above-mentioned seven stakeholders determine my specific environment. Other influencing issues as the weather, the law, and the government are important, but not to a direct and determining extent in my particular daily decisions. How about you? Who are YOUR stakeholders?