They may not be your customers or your boss, but if you do not have an understanding of how your stakeholders feel about your company/project/initiative or the level of influence they could have in the outcome, they could make life more challenging than it needs to be.
Consider what a stakeholder is - individuals or groups that impact, or could be impacted by an organization. They may or may not have monetary stakes in the relationship, but they have something, and consequently they have a vested interest or stake in a company's operations. Further, these stakeholders may be internal to the organization, such as your employees or outsiders such as the public, the competition, or the government looking in.
Ponder the many possible ways in which they can appear, and the possible combinations they could take given a situation:
Depending on the issue they may not remain on the same side. The alliances may shift and new coalitions develop depending upon the issue at hand. For example, your company might have a manufacturing facility that is not performing to the required standards set forth by the company's leaders, and the desire is to shut this underperforming unit down. The employees who work at that facility have a strong desire to keep it open or else they are out of a job. The local government too has an interest in it remaining open as it is a source of tax revenue. On the other side of the issue, the company stockholders and creditors are probably more inclined to close it to improve the company's financial situation. Each side has reasons to pick a side and the potential to form coalitions. Understanding the drivers for the various stakeholders will help leadership address the concerns of all parties, and perhaps lessen or remove roadblocks that might otherwise delay or derail the efforts they deem to be the best for the company.
Some examples of stakeholders taking a stance that many not have been expected or at least was probably not considered when putting forth the plans include:
To prepare for responses to a certain event such as the opening of a new factory in Iowa, or a decision to move operations from China to Vietnam it helps to prepare a stakeholder analysis.
The analysis should answer the following questions:
- what is the event on which the analysis is based?
- who are the stakeholders? (remember they can be internal to the organization as well as external)
- what are their concerns?
- what are their interests?
- what is their desired output from their relationship with your company?
- what other stakeholders align with at least some of their interests?
I generally do this analysis in a spreadsheet. I keep a master list so that I do not miss potential stakeholders and related insights then I update the categories to capture pertinent stakeholders and related information for the analysis.
Further I might identify any existing partnerships between the stakeholders or which of them may be likely to form an alliance based upon the alignment of objectives.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I suggest developing a stakeholder map. In my version the x-axis corresponds to the stakeholders position on the issue (are they for or against, or somewhere in between), and the y-axis relates to their ability to impact the company. For added perspective I scaled the circles representing each stakeholder to correspond to their impact. In the chart I developed, employees and shareholders have the most impact. I also added some "sub" circles in my employee circle to breakout union employees and the management team as their views might not necessarily align and it may be a mistake to lump them together.
This analysis of the situation and how it impacts your stakeholders will help you in change management - it will help in the message planning for each stakeholder. What are some concerns they might have, and how can they be addressed before they turn into problems?
Examples where this analysis is useful:
- mergers and acquisitions
- expansions or contraction of business
- new products
- changes to policies or procedures
- eliminating underperforming products
- modifying products
- somethings gone wrong - a botched product release
- changes to services
Try it and see if helps you look at the activity in a different light. As I said, I keep a master list with all stakeholders and it helps to keep the list current and then select as appropriate from the list the parties that are potentially impacted by specific activities of the company. Good luck and let me know what you think.