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Stakeholders and change

During a change process it’s critical to get started right away thinking about who will be involved/impacted in the change. We don’t necessarily need to do a full analysis of the impact on stakeholders at this point (we may need to gather additional information before we reach this point). However, we need to know who to involve throughout the process (e.g., in developing our vision, determining what success will look like, and in setting up feedback mechanisms).

Ultimately, for our change to be successful, we need to engage our stakeholders in an ongoing conversation, seeking understanding and creative solutions to issues of mutual concern.

When thinking about our stakeholders, we can keep in mind the following principles (Adapted from The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook, 2015 and Engaging With Stakeholders is Critical When Leading Change, 2014):

  1.  You can forget important stakeholders, but they won’t forget you
  2. Identification is a continuous practice – new stakeholders emerge during a change, old ones can fade away
  3. Prioritizing and segmenting stakeholders is in a moment in time – regularly re-prioritize
  4. Some stakeholders are best engaged by others
  5. Seek first to understand, and then be understood (Covey)
  6. Emotion outweighs reason
  7. Demonstration outweighs argument

Who are our key stakeholders?

At this point we’re just getting started with our stakeholder list, so it likely will be quite rough, and will continue to evolve once we’ve done a deeper analysis later on in the change process.

We can start by drafting a list of known stakeholders. Ideally, the leadership team will take part in this discussion to bring a senior-level perspective to the exercise and facilitate future engagement. The next iteration of the list will be to identify our key stakeholders to determine which ones stand out from the list. Often, factors such as the impact the change will have on them, and how big it will be (low/medium/high) will give some clues as to which stakeholders we want to keep on our radar.

When thinking about our stakeholders it is then helpful to segment them into groups based on what makes sense to the context (e.g., by functional area, by directorate/sector/branch, by interest area).

Rapid listing (adapted from The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook, 2015)

One of the ways we can quickly come up with a list of stakeholders is through rapid listing. It goes like this:

  1. Each participant in the discussion makes a quick list of every stakeholder they can think of on their own.
  2. Then, we pair people off and ask them to compare their lists, adding new stakeholders as they occur to them.
  3. We move these pairs into groups of four and repeat the last step.
  4. Finally, we ask the whole team to make a joint list.

Below is a model of a simplified stakeholder analysis.

Individuals / GroupsKey StakeholderStakeholder
• Client type 1
• Client type 2
• Client type 3


Other federal departments/groups
• Department 1
• Department 2


Simplified stakeholder analysis table

This list should be adjusted periodically as the process unfolds. So, it doesn’t need to be refined at this point. The important part is to get started working on it. Later in the change process we will do a deeper analysis on our various stakeholders in order to tailor our change approach to their specific needs

Next steps

With our understanding of the importance of trust and dialogue, we can begin to think more about the change itself and start to develop our strategy and plan.

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