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Understand your key stakeholders

Many different people may have an interest in the outcome of your work or be able to affect the project’s direction or success. Determining who may be the key champions or skeptics of your work, and what their interests are, will allow you to navigate organization dynamics and build consensus.

Sometimes your partner will have a good understanding of who these stakeholders are, but sometimes they may not be able to immediately articulate who can impact the work, and other times it may seem like everyone is a stakeholder. In addition, your partner may be reluctant to share information or may not realize what information is important to share with you. By clarifying the underlying dynamics and motivations at play, you will be able to help your partner engage their stakeholders more strategically. To do so, it will be important to build rapport with your partner and facilitate open conversations to create an environment of trust.

Considerations: A good understanding of stakeholders…

  • Defines the key stakeholders in the partner’s organization who have an interest in this work and can influence or impact the current process

  • Describes the roles and goals/objectives of the key stakeholders

  • Distinguishes between those most affected or impacted by the current process and those with a more peripheral interest

  • Clarifies their ideal levels of involvement in day to day work, updates, and decisions

Activities: How to get there

  • Understand who will be overseeing your work, what they’re responsible for, and what’s in it for them.

  • Understand who will be making decisions and how, who the advisors and influencers are, and what drives decision-making and approvals.

  • Identify who are your allies, skeptics, and bystanders, and what they care most about.

  • Uncover additional stakeholders and relationships by reviewing org charts and a history of recent org changes.

  • Try to create your own org chart to map your project’s key stakeholders, levels of authority, and dependencies.

  • Ask your stakeholders about policies and mandates they have to follow, as well as upcoming deadlines or organization-wide dates they need to meet.

  • Ask your stakeholders what metrics or results they are accountable for, what pressures they face, what initiatives they’re focused on, and what it would mean if this project is and is not a success.

Incorporation: What to do next

  • Draw on what you’ve learned from your stakeholders to refine your initial stakeholder map.

  • Work with your partner to create a stakeholder engagement plan that tailors the content and frequency of your communications to their needs and interests.

  • Incorporate your stakeholders’ needs and interests when defining the future state.


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