When it comes to managing your stakeholders, can a “one size fits all” approach really do the trick? In my experience, the short answer is…no. Meeting stakeholders where they are based on a variety of factors such as their level of influence in the organization, their interest in the topic at hand, and their ability to throw a wrench in the works is a really useful way to understand what they need.
The best way I’ve found to effectively manage these stakeholders and plan for the right level of engagement with them is to categorize them based on what they want and need. While every client and project we work on is a little different, these are the categories I use most often:
- Group 1 – Manage Closely. These are the leaders with the highest degree of interest and influence over your initiative.
- Engagement Strategy – keep them close by checking in regularly, soliciting their input and advice, and leveraging them for key decisions. Make sure you have a structured cadence for engagement with this group and make time for one-on-one conversations as well.
- 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 – they are typically very influential and are the “throw a wrench in the works” kinds of stakeholders
- Engagement Strategy – Given their high degree of influence on your project, keep them apprised and up to date on the issues they care most about. This group typically 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.
- Engagement Strategy – Proactively plan how you announce and explain the change at the right time with this group. Don’t wait until you have all the answers…the watercooler rumors are probably spreading pretty early and you don’t want that to overshadow your core messages. And make sure you connect regularly and give them periodic updates, even if there isn’t a lot of “new” news. Typically, audiences start to make assumptions when they haven’t heard from you in a while.
- Group 4 – Monitor. These are people who are on your radar but don’t have as much influence or interest in your project.
- Engagement Strategy – Be really clear to name the groups that fall into this category so you make a purposeful decision NOT to engage with them very much. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sbPResults.