Katherine Brennan Murphy
Principal, Tapestry Communications

JoAnn Hackos, PhD
CIDM Director

A Focus on Stakeholders

At the February meeting of the Innovator’s Forum, participants focused on their understanding of stakeholders and how that understanding had dramatically affected the success of their project plans. Everyone has now spent nearly five months working on their change management issues. Yet, for the first time, they reported a markedly strengthened perspective on handling change. We were all struck by the sound actions taken by the participants to ensure their project success.

Defining and analyzing stakeholders is a critical ingredient in a change management plan. We learned that simply identifying who might be a stakeholder is only the first step. Once a stakeholder is identified, the leader is responsible for understanding how the stakeholder will best receive information about the project.

In one situation, the leader analyzed the effect of a national culture on the success of the project. The technical experts in each country must agree to the proposed process change. Only by understanding what is important in the culture and how to communicate appropriately with the local experts will the leader be successful in winning their participation in the process change.

We learned that if you can know how an individual stakeholder or a group of stakeholders in a particular culture will respond to a change plan, you can better communicate about the change. One culture, whether national or corporate, might respond best to solutions that promote cost efficiencies. Another might be more willing to accept solutions that reduce waste or pollution. Still another might be attracted to a plan that will improve quality.

The Forum participants have clearly recognized the need to plan a strategy in keeping with a corporate, national, or even team culture. Sometimes they have to challenge the assumption that the information developers will work excessively long hours and under great stress to do all their assignments. One manager was directed to stop working on projects that could no longer be supported by a reduced staff. Although she was uncomfortable at first, it proved to be the right decision. Because the neglected projects are back on the priority list, she has been authorized to hire staff to respond.

Stakeholder analysis does not mean solely understanding the particular culture of an organization, however. It includes understanding the drivers that influence how people make decisions.

If you do not understand which plans are ultimately acceptable, even if seriously challenging, you are unlikely to succeed. Find out how to communicate effectively with those who affect you, your team, and your projects. Without support from key individuals throughout your organization, your well-laid plans won’t come to a satisfying conclusion.