There are few more troubling emotions than the feeling that you’ve been left behind.
It’s just as true for a kid who’s lost in the supermarket as it is for an adult who’s missed his connecting flight.
It’s also true for the person you forgot to account for as a stakeholder in your change…
In today’s article, I’d like to help you avoid the pitfall of leaving important people behind when guiding change by sharing Ten Tips for Effective Stakeholder Mapping.
Finding all of the stakeholders involved in a change is one of the very early activities that we should take on as we begin to guide a change. I use a simple 10-step process to make sure no impacted people are left behind when the communication, training and other change-related interactions begin.
1. Don’t Wait. Start looking for impacted stakeholders as soon as you know a change is coming. It becomes very difficult to circle back with folks who have been forgotten, so it’s better to get a jump start than to play catch-up.
Don’t assume you can get to it later.
Don’t assume it’s someone else’s job.
2. Make An Assumption: I know I just warned you about avoiding assumptions, but here is a good assumption for Change Agents to consider: Assume everyone is impacted until you can verify otherwise. This might seem hard to do, but it’s actually easier than trying to guess who’s impacted and risking an accidental oversight.
I usually start with as broad a list of potential targets as possible… (an exhaustive org chart, a full customer list, etc.) I then ask my client to help me verify which people are not impacted.
Remember; it’s easier to scratch people off a list than it is to build the list from a blank piece of paper.
3. Group Your Stakeholders: It’s hard to speak with every stakeholder individually on a regular basis – especially if your change impacts hundreds or thousands of people, so I usually categorize stakeholders into impact groups.
The groups may be based on things like process steps, roles, organizational components or locations. These collections can eventually form the basis for targeted email lists, optimized meeting invitations, specific training invitations, etc.
4. Classify the Impact: If your change is complex, it can help to begin making notes regarding which elements of the change apply to a given stakeholder or group.
One proven way to do this is to use an inventory of impacted processes and roles as a starting point. I have found it’s usually better to start with processes and roles than to start with the names of individuals because people may come and go during the course of the change.
It will be very helpful to leverage this understanding for the type of impact a given person might expect as we can start planning how to help them prepare.
5. Collect Contact Data: Gather contact information such as the stakeholder’s location, email address, phone number and the best method of communicating with them.
6. Connect the Dots: Verify who the stakeholder looks to for leadership, communication, policy interpretation and other organizational guidance. For example, who is the Supervisor of a given location or a given team? Who do they look to for messaging or decision-making?
These “go to people” will provide a critical link in our chain of sponsorship for the change.
7. Quantify the Impact: If possible, identify the level of change impact a given stakeholder should expect. Will the person experience a low, medium or high degree of change? This might be hard to do initially, but keep re-visiting the impact question as the changes come into focus.
8. Watch for Crosswinds: Account for overlapping changes that may hit your stakeholders in the same time frame as your change. Often a change such as rolling out a new email system or switching to a new paystub format will occur at the same time as some other big changes.
Note: Even if you feel the other changes are unrelated to yours – take them into account!
Stakeholders may find themselves overwhelmed with change during a short time window. Being aware of potential “change overload” can help you ensure adequate communication and abundant help are available for those going through simultaneous waves of change.
9. Look for Champions: In some cases, your initial stakeholder mapping may turn up folks who are not only aware of the coming change, but are anxiously awaiting it. These people can make great change “champions” because they may be able to help you expand the reach of your communication and support efforts into their locations and make your centralized work more effective at the local level.
10. Write It Down & Verify It! Finally, a stakeholder map is only useful if it remains accurate. As you collect all the information we’ve discussed above, store it in a spreadsheet, database, document or whatever works best for you.
Note: Avoid keeping this information “in your head”, even if you know everyone personally.
Review the information regularly to make sure it stays current. I’ve seen some consultants offer fancy software and proprietary stakeholder mapping tools, but they’re probably not necessary if you have a basic level of skill using Word, Access or Excel tables.
The Bottom Line: Finding everyone who will be impacted by your change is a vital first step in the process of guiding people through change adoption.
I use a simple, 10-step stakeholder mapping process to make sure no one gets left behind.
Contact me if you have additional insights into stakeholder mapping or if you need any help with this process.
Questions for Chatter:
- What can go wrong if you accidentally leave someone out of your change communication?
- What other techniques have you used as a Change Agent to uncover those impacted by your changes?