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Making a Stakeholder Map: Key Exercises in Change Management

Mark Wilcox and Mark Jenkins, authors of Engaging Change: A People-Centred Approach to Business Transformation, outline the importance of constructing a stakeholder map.

Your ability to execute and deliver change is directly proportional to your ability to engage with two groups of stakeholders. Firstly, those who can influence the outcome of the change; these are typically the individuals and entities that control or own resources. The second group are those who will be affected or influenced by the change; i.e. the stakeholders whose personal and professional life will be affected by the outcome. If you do not engage with both of these communities, execution of your change endeavour is likely to be unsuccessful.

Luca Bitonto, a change manager in Germany, told us this:

‘The first thing I do is an accurate stakeholder analysis, based on 1:1 interviews with them. This process is extremely helpful because it engages the stakeholders with the change and helps them to think about how they personally relate to the change in a more conscious way.’

An important step in understanding your stakeholders, how they should be managed and how they should be engaged, is the construction of a stakeholder map. If done properly, the map will enable you to identify what sort of message needs to be sent to each identifiable stakeholder group; how the message should be communicated; how frequently communication needs to occur and, most importantly, by whom, within the change team, the message needs to be conveyed.

There are perceived losers and winners in the process of any change. This may be true or exaggerated perceptions of certain groups or individuals. What is clear from both research and practice is that power matters and where there are influential groups, such as the supervisory or first-line manager level, you need to respect their power position and use it as a conduit for the effective communication of change. To that end, not all stakeholders are equal nor demand the same level of attention and support.

There is a significant body of evidence to suggest that in large organizations, it’s the person who is trusted and not the message given, and the research suggests that the person most trusted is the immediate line manager or supervisor. Messages given from the top are treated with suspicion and mistrust, whilst those given from the immediate line of supervision above the individual are considered the most genuine and believable source of information about what is really going on. So any communication process should engage and organize this critical group of stakeholders. However, in many organizational change initiatives, they are also a potentially vulnerable group- often being the collateral damage in reorganizations and the creation of flatter structures.

Within any organization, a number of informal networks exist; understanding who occupies a position in these networks and how they work is absolutely essential if you want to engage with and secure the commitment of the people able to enhance or constrain your chances of success.

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