A single act can affect a lot of people. We have many words and phrases to describe the way in which this happens, terms such as knock-on effect, chain reaction, ripples spreading in a pool and the domino effect. These all refer to situations where a single act affects others who are often far removed from its centre.

When a crime is committed, say the burglary of an old lady, there are obvious stakeholders in the victim and the police working on the case, as they feel a direct impact from the act. Then there are those at the next level, the victim's family, friends and neighbours, who feel a sort of secondary impact. Further out there are those who do not feel the same level of impact but who are still affected by the crime. People such as the glazier who repairs the window and the insurance company who will deal with the claim do so as a result of the actions of the burglar.

So it is in project management where there are obvious stakeholders and not so obvious ones. Prominent stakeholders include bosses, staff and clients, those on who the success or failure of the project will have the greatest impact. But there are other stakeholders who are not nearly so prominent, stakeholders who are the equivalent of the glazier and insurance rep in the example above. It is important that you identify these stakeholders because, although they may not be directly involved in events within the project, a failure to include them in your planning could have a very big, and negative, impact indeed.

Of course you must satisfy those main stakeholders, as they are the ones with the biggest investment of time, resources and money that they have sunk into the project. But to ensure their satisfaction requires the smooth running of the project - and that can only be achieved if you have tracked down everyone who can affect the project in any way, no matter how small. For while the major stakeholders loom large in your conscience, you should also seek out those stakeholders who may only be bit players in the big picture, because their input could be vital to its success.

For example, let us suppose you are managing a project that is rolling along smoothly without any snags. All the principal stakeholders are happy and everything is running to schedule. A new phase of the project is about to begin and for this some new parts must be ordered. You contact your usual supplier but he tells you that his workforce is flat out for the foreseeable future and he cannot possibly fit your order in. This development could transform your smooth running project into a train wreck.

You should have involved the supplier at an earlier date so that either he could accommodate your order or at least if his order books were already full up you would have had the time to arrange an alternative. Concentrating your efforts on keeping the main stakeholders happy, while ignoring those lesser ones, has now resulted in a situation where the success of the entire project is under threat.

It is vitally important, therefore, that you identify all of the stakeholders associated with your project. Look as far as those ripples spread and seek out that last domino to fall. Cover all eventualities and bring every stakeholder on board. Check and check again that you have not overlooked anyone who will play even a minor part in the project. The stakes are too high for you not to.