Initial engagement with stakeholders is important because setting up these connections well, gives you a greater chance of a successful outcome for your change initiative. Remember, you may need to cast your net deep, wide and high.
Imagine a situation where you are responsible for implementing a change that impacts your entire organisation and could be of huge benefit over time to many people including the CEO, the executive, employees and clients/consumers. But to implement it requires a huge multilayered response that is costly and will be disruptive. The change process will impact at both at a high level and at the multiple levels in the organisation at which work must be done to create the change. Many people from the top down and across the organisation would prefer to maintain the status quo. Maintaining the status quo will result in short term stability (no change required) and won’t cost anything in the short term, but it could result in harm to the organisation, employees, staff and potentially clients further down the track. Imagine that unsuccessful implementation of the change could end up costing a lot, in both human and monetary terms.
If there is one thing that is certain at work, change is a constant. And we know that anyone who will be impacted by the change in any way is a stakeholder. From a leadership perspective when we need to implement change we know how important it is to effectively engage with stakeholder groups and individual stakeholders. There would be many stakeholders involved in the example above: potentially clients, clients’ families, employees and their families, sponsors, managers, directors, CEO, other organisations and possibly shareholders. So how can we make sure we do that effectively?
First of all we need to identify exactly what kinds of stakeholders are connected with the change. We need to consider:
From the example above it is clear that there could be a large number of stakeholders involved across the organisation and outside of it and each group could have different perspectives and a different level of influence.
What this means is, that engaging stakeholders is not one size fits all. For that reason, it is important to firstly identify the type of stakeholders you have and how they are impacted or can impact the change. These fall broadly into the following groups. There are those who:
So how do we effectively engage with such potentially diverse groups of stakeholders? The following principles will assist you to frame your communication with the individuals within each of these groups in a way that is meaningful for them and results in a good outcome for you. It will also assist you to work out the level of engagement required.
Once you know what you need from your stakeholders, what is important to them and what they need from you, you can now work out how to help them support the change from their perspective.
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