4 Types of Stakeholders and How to Manage Them During Change

Broadly speaking, I’ve often found that the most complex, global, technical projects I’ve worked on tend to have an overwhelming number of stakeholders who all feel like they have skin in the game. In my experience, the best way to manage those leaders effectively is to do two things:

  1. Understand who they are and what their likely areas of interest/opinions will be based on what part of the organization they’re part of (and their personal history with the organization).
  2. Categorize them into one of four groups to figure out how to manage (and utilize) them effectively on your projects.

Group ManagementSince the first principle is pretty intuitive and usually straightforward, I’ll share a few insights on how to effectively accomplish #2:

  • Group 1 – Manage Closely. These are the leaders with the highest degree of interest and influence over your initiative. Keep them close by checking in on status with regularity, soliciting their input, advice and questions on an ongoing basis over time and making time for one-on-one conversations to obtain their feedback.
  • Group 2 – Keep Satisfied. These are leaders who have less interest than Group 1 – maybe because they’re not impacted as directly or have a smaller team that will experience the change. But this group is critical because they still have a high degree of influence on your project – and if you’re not careful, they can swoop in and pursue drastic changes that can take you off course. This group needs some degree of regular updates and a chance to provide feedback at critical junctures before key decisions are finalized. You can also utilize your sponsors to check in with these leaders depending on the nature of/type of relationships they have.
  • Group 3 – Keep Informed. People in this category are typically your audience and users who have less influence over the change but are highly interested in what’s going on. Proactively plan how you announce and explain the change at the right time with this group – and don’t go for long periods of time without giving them an update or the water cooler talk and rumor mill can be rampant.
  • Group 4 – Monitor. These are people who are on your radar but don’t have as much influence or interest in your project. Monitoring them is key to ensure that you haven’t missed how they may be impacted by change (and keeping them on your radar will help you know if major questions/concerns are arising from them as well).

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults and is passionate about managing change to create business readiness for her clients. You can reach her at sbrowning@people-results.com or on Twitter @sbPResults.