Developing Stakeholders for Improved Change
How will enterprises ration,
orchestrate and manage change to improve strategy execution?
How will enterprises develop an
understanding of their current capacity for change?
Fewer than 35 percent of change management
initiatives will include strategies for explicitly managing change
resistors or leveraging early change adopters, effectively and
unnecessarily constraining the organization's overall change capacity.
Stakeholders vary in their capacity to accept change and their power to
effect it. We provide a model for segmenting, targeting and managing
stakeholders to accelerate change adoption.
Within a group, individual behavioral and emotional responses to a
given stimulus will typically follow the form of a bell curve (see Figure
1). Responses to organizational change initiatives are no different. In
the beginning stages of a change initiative, a small percentage of
individuals will become early adopters — eager to participate because they
hail the change as a breakthrough that will lead to better conditions. The
majority of people affected by a change initiative will be far less
enthusiastic than the early adopters, but over time they will eventually
accept the new condition and adapt to it. Finally, there will be a group
of highly resistant individuals, many of whom will never adapt to the
instituted change. This range of behaviors follows a normal
distribution. This is a natural phenomenon intuitively grasped by most
change managers. Unfortunately, although they may subconsciously
understand the phenomenon, these managers often fail to employ that
understanding to orchestrate more-effective
The Stakeholder Segmentation Model (see Figure 2 and Note 1) is a tool
for applying the insights derived from the normal distribution to the
unique cultural dynamics of individual organizations. Each cell in the
model represents distinct stakeholder attributes. The change team
populates the cells with the names of individuals and groups that share
the given profile. The individuals or groups reflected in the cells are
then targeted for one of four strategies: to be leveraged, engaged,
contained or outplaced.
Leverage strategies are applied to early adopters with
significant influence. The goal is to develop their support and
consciously utilize their influence to accelerate change among the
reluctant majority. It is important to understand that influence does not
necessarily translate into hierarchical position. Influencers are natural
leaders and respected functional experts who are well-connected. They are
hubs in the enterprise's social, political and communication network, and
their sphere of influence extends beyond their native organizational
domain. To the extent that such influencers illustrate their support for
the change initiative, they are a far more powerful marketing tool than
any message delivered through the change management
Explanation of Stakeholder
The horizontal access of the Stakeholder
Segmentation Model represents the normal distribution. The vertical access
represents a logical segmentation of stakeholders that can vary by change
initiative or organization. Where the effects of change are contained
exclusively within the native enterprise, the vertical axis will most
commonly represent a spectrum of stakeholder power or influence as shown
here. Other logical segmentations might represent organizational
hierarchies, such as executives, middle managers and line staff, or of
business relationships such as clients, suppliers and strategic partners.
The focus of the leverage, engagement, containment and outplacement
strategies should be adjusted to remain consistent with the vertical
The strategy for each cell will potentially require a
different communication, marketing and management approach, as well as the
utilization of different levers for achieving change. Such levers include,
but are not limited to, changes in processes, organization, people
practices, physical infrastructure, technologies and products and
services. The specific portfolio of techniques employed to encourage
change must be based on the profiles of those affected, or ineffectiveness
and waste will result.
Engagement strategies are primarily applied to the reluctant
majority. In the case of high or moderate influencers, the goal is to turn
them into early adopters and leverage their influence among those with
trailing interest or commitment. For those who cannot be pulled forward or
those of low influence, the goal is to accelerate their rate of adaptation
by helping them better understand and prepare for the effects of change.
Engagement strategies are also applied early in the change process in an
attempt to draw resistant laggards into the reluctant majority.
Containment strategies are pre-emptive strikes against inertia.
They target those resistant laggards who are unable to adapt, yet who,
because of their unique combinations of knowledge, skills or abilities,
still contribute in an important way. Containment strategies maintain the
productive capacity of these groups or individuals while consciously
diminishing their sphere of influence.
Outplacement strategies presume that at least some individuals
will be unwilling or unable to adapt to change. Particularly virulent and
influential resistant laggards are prime candidates for outplacement. They
are given an early opportunity to demonstrate their acceptance and
compliance with the change but, failing that, they face unambiguous
consequences. Outplacement strategies are fair, deliberate and
strategically timed. They ensure that particularly destructive behaviors
are identified, contained and removed early enough in the change process
to preclude serious undermining of objectives, and to demonstrate that the
change initiative is real.
Understanding who a change initiative will affect, how it will affect
them, and what their reactions are likely to be is pivotal to a successful
change strategy. Without such knowledge, negative responses cannot be
addressed, nor can positive responses be leveraged. Specifically
classifying stakeholders according to important variables such as
influence, power and change-readiness is a prerequisite for developing a
comprehensive change strategy.