“It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent,
but the ones who are responsive to change”
In the last blog I focussed on Change Management and highlighted that people react to change in different ways and at their own pace – Change Management: Leadership Tools & Applications Part I. I focussed on a small selection of tools and methodologies that change leaders should have in their arsenal to overcome challenges for effective delivery. The tools help understand the psychological, emotional and motivational states of individuals and groups who are receiving change and ways to manage them through it.
This blog builds on from that taking a look at a practical method for managing stakeholders once their position to change is understood. I cannot emphasise enough how important and integral Stakeholder Management is to managing change effectively. Really involving people and as early as possible will enable them to have control or influence over the change and this creates buy-in, empowerment and ownership.
Both Change and Stakeholder Management are in-depth and well researched areas and so I will share the basics of what has worked for me.
Stakeholder Management in a nutshell?
If stakeholders are individuals or groups that have an interest in a change then whatever the circumstance, where stakeholders exist, own a process and are due to be subject to change, their management is pivotal for effective change delivery.
This is typically done through stakeholder identification, prioritisation and analysis following on from which action and engagement (communication) plans can be developed and implemented.
Through understanding stakeholders as people not tasks on a project plan, prioritising and organising them, change leaders start to gather drive for change!
The Theory: Stakeholder Management Plan
There are 2 main steps to creating a plan:
1). Identify and Prioritise your stakeholders
It is essential that this process is completed thoroughly and updated on an ongoing basis. The first question to ask is – Who are your key stakeholders?
Create a list of your stakeholders individually, or as I prefer, with my team. Even if they are not involved directly in the work they will know the business and either way it’s always good to get another perspective.
Providing my team with post-it notes I ask them to write 1 stakeholder per post-it until our list is exhausted. It does not matter how you capture the list as long as you have the vast majority that the change will impact.
The next task is to determine how influential each of your stakeholders are. How much will the change impact them?
To answer this we need to rate the stakeholders. I tend to draw a Priority Diagram (see Figure 1) on a flip chart or on a white board. Note the 1-10 scale for the stakeholders level of Interest and Influence. The team can now “stick” the stakeholders on the Priority Diagram using the scale. The rating should be specific to the change affecting them. During this exercise discussion amongst the group will often lead to the stakeholder position changing on the diagram. Completing this rating exercise will place the stakeholders into 1 of 4 “priority” sections within the diagram – segmenting stakeholders. The section determines the action that needs to be taken with each stakeholder.
Figure 1 – Priority Diagram
Once stakeholders are charted on the diagram we can start to create a plan. A spreadsheet is a good way of capturing this and templates for stakeholder management plans are available on the internet.
To start I will record the outputs of the Priority Diagram exercise into a spreadsheet:
Figure 2 – Stakeholder list
To develop the plan of action ask the question – How quickly do you want the stakeholders on board? Every change has a starting point and desired end point, the goal of the change leader is to manage the transition. The stakeholders have to be managed in the same manner.
2). Understand and Communicate to stakeholders
For each stakeholder ask the following questions:
- Where are the stakeholders at present?
- Where do you need them to be?
- What steps do we use to get them there?
- When and how should we contact them
Again, I would extend or follow up with a team meeting to thrash out ideas and share knowledge of the stakeholders and experiences. The spreadsheet can then be extended to capture this information, see below (Figure 3):
Figure 3 – Stakeholder action plan
Columns D-F provide a starting position and desired goal based on the required stakeholder level of engagement. It is a snapshot in time and so regular updates to monitor progression and development of stakeholders is essential. Timelines should be built so that there is a view of being on track with the project or a milestone.
In column G, I have added a RAG status of where the stakeholder is currently (again opinion) at the point in time. I record their previous status is in column K for comparison every time I update it.
Columns H-J indicate how often communications should be delivered to each stakeholder according to their priority, where we need them to be and RAG status. Purposeful communications e.g. regular project updates for the “engage now” stakeholder priorities and email newsletters for those to “inform later” are well received. Leaders should be flexible in their approach using the appropriate communication methods to achieve the desired outcomes.
This provides the core of what is necessary for managing stakeholder effectively.
Building on from this action plan is a communication strategy with details of content and channels of delivery, which this blog will not cover.
Stakeholder Management is not an exact science and so I have seen (from a distance) some interesting cases where an oversight can have drastic consequences and I learned from others mistakes.
Several months of hard work on a strategic piece had led to the point of signing off for rollout. It was a brilliant piece of work. However, a very senior manager was completely unaware and it affected their area of the business directly. Needless to say it did not matter whose mistake it was, the individual introducing them to the change bore the brunt of this which was not pleasant. It also delayed and tarnished delivery.
I have also seen instances where front line teams have not been informed/involved and have “switched-off” from the change with references to them being an “afterthought”. This not only disincentivises the team, it spreads negativity and makes the change leaders and project teams role an uphill battle to maintain momentum in trying to get the team on-side.
An application of Stakeholder Management that every reader will relate to is the identification, prioritisation and impact assessment Chancellor Rishi Sunak has completed when creating measures to assist and ease financial economic pressure. He has considered all his stakeholders segmented by employment status and business type and communicated what is happening and when, clearly.
What can we learn?
People do not automatically embrace change so expecting people to use something that has just been delivered, or adjust to the change or do something as part of their job (even if they asked for it originally) will not always happen. To overcome resistance we must ensure all stakeholders have input.
Change initiatives often have a team behind the delivery and so managing stakeholders should be coordinated. Communications too need to be coordinated, open, regular and clear from Project Sponsor, the Project team and the business. Those impacted by change need to be up-to-speed on what will affect them.
Having said that people are often judged in their performance through tasks completed and not engaging with people. At the same time, engaging with people is not a “tick box” exercise. Time spent by leading and influencing change through relationships is key and should not be discriminated against. It creates “pull” toward change whereas completing tasks and actions are “push” factors. Again its about winning hearts and minds and will put you in good shape to achieve what good looks like.
As mentioned, there is lots out there on this subject, however, I find going back to basics and using what makes sense works.
The Rocket CRM team are experienced in delivering projects across all industries from inception to completion, and beyond embedding changes into business as usual. It gives us pleasure in sharing knowledge and expertise beyond technical CRM to help clients progress their business goals. We recognise the importance of relationships and that’s one of the reasons why our clients have given us an 86% Net Promotor Score.
References: Change Management, APMG Int.; LEAN, McKinsey & Co.; Change Requires Management, presentation at Community Summit – Andrew Bibby