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Effective Change Management, Part 2: Bridging Gaps

I recently read about a key bridge between two coastal towns that was deemed unsafe. It was dismantled with a new bridge to be completed in 2014. Considerable studies were conducted last winter about the construction, budget and schedule for the project. They assessed how traffic patterns, river and ocean routes and local business would be impacted. Yet, the planners had a major gap in their stakeholder analysis. They failed to consider two key stakeholder groups: bicyclists who commute over the bridge and summer tourists who bike along the seacoast. The cyclists could not bike from town to town. Four months after the bridge was taken down, the problems for bicyclists have yet to be solved.

Stakeholders are the individuals and groups who are impacted by or interested in your project. As they have varying degrees of power that can either propel or derail your project, it is crucial to identify the primary and secondary stakeholders. By conducting stakeholder analysis, you can identify them, gain an understanding of their interests and influence and use that information to get them onboard.

Despite the importance of performing stakeholder analysis, all too often companies neglect to account for all the stakeholders involved, as in the bridge example. So how can you successfully conduct stakeholder analysis? Brainstorming is certainly one of the most effective methods, and focus groups, observations and interviews are also helpful. The key to success is being able to capture your analysis. I prefer to do so in a 6-column matrix that includes:

Stakeholder Impacts Interest Influence Risk/Mitigation Actions
Individual or group High, Med, Low High, Med, Low

 

1. Stakeholder(s): A list of everyone who could be affected by the change, Discuss relationships between stakeholders. Summer bike-riding tourists bring important revenue to seacoast businesses. The Bridge Planning Committee should have included both cycling groups.
2. Impacts: You need to know how your stakeholders will benefit be negatively affected or have to change their thinking and actions. Keep in mind that there may be multiple impacts per stakeholder.
3. Interest: The effects on stakeholders vary from minimal to intense. Categorize the stakeholder’s level of interest.
4. Influence: It helps to identify the stakeholder’s level of power, as sometimes their power can make or break your project. Use a scale of low, medium, high to account for each stakeholder’s level of power.
5. Risk and Mitigation: You’re likely to run into resistance from some stakeholders, so you’ll want to plan ahead to minimize opposition. If you can identify conflicts and problems, enter them into the next column. Include your ideas on how to minimize fears, resistance and obstacles.
6. Actions: Use this column to collect ideas on how to involve the stakeholder. How can you gain their support?

Of course, be sure to validate your analysis. You don’t want to leave out the bike riders like the Bridge Committee did. You’ll gain more information and insights as your project moves forward, so come back to authenticate the stakeholder analysis as needed.

Stakeholder analysis is a key step in change management planning. At Talent Function, change management is in every consultant’s job description. We begin thinking about change management at the start of our client’s projects and initiatives. We think you should too.

To read Part 1 of this blog, “It’s Not That Simple,” visit Part 1.