During organisational change, an important ingredient is the appropriate identification of all stakeholder in the process. This should be done at the very beginning of the change process. Most change initiatives fail on this premise.
A category of stakeholders might be overlooked or ignored in the change process and they end up being so crucial that failure to manage them could ruin the process. A simple example, when an organisation has to downsize, they may tend to focus on the employees who are being laid off.

However, a much greater impact of this change could be added roles to those who are left behind as they have to take on tasks that were previously executed by those leaving. The second category of stakeholder needs even closer and more careful management as failure to do so could see them resist, sabotage or completely undermine the change efforts.

Identification of stakeholders is best done in a workshop setting with senior and middle-level managers represented. Especially those to whom the change is closely associated. A competent staff member or a consultant should facilitate the session in which participants brainstorm and list all possible stakeholders by identifying ways in which they might be affected by the change, whether in a big or small way.

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Further, stakeholder analysis tools are useful for this exercise that help to identify the stakeholders’ levels of influence and interest or impact in the change process. Below I discuss briefly the benefits of correctly identifying and mapping stakeholders during organisational change;

1. Involving the right stakeholders during change – stakeholder involvement is key to change success. But it is not merely involvement for the sake of it, much as it is with the right stakeholders. Depending on the nature and scope of the change, not all staff and teams will be affected and or impacted by the change. Also, different stakeholders will be impacted differently during the change process. When the right stakeholders are involved, the change process tends to be smoother and with minimal disruptions thus leading to greater potential for success.

2. Clearly identifying and managing impacts accrued to the stakeholders – as pointed above, stakeholders are impacted differently during the change process. There cannot be a blanket stakeholder management solution for all during change, and effort must be applied to determining how different stakeholders are impacted in order to design solutions that best suit them.

3. Correctly identifying and managing change risks – just as an impact on stakeholders would be different, so would the types and level impacts potential risks. Failure to identify and appropriately mitigate risks has the potential to derail the change and in certain cases ultimate failure.

4. Developing appropriate stakeholder management strategies – there are various stakeholder management strategies and not all will be suitable for every situation. Depending on the level of influence and impact accrued to different stakeholders, appropriate strategies must be applied in managing each of them. Stakeholders impacted highly in the change process require involvement, consultation, and regular communication including face-to-face. On the other hand, those not highly impacted, but need to know, only need to be kept informed through the process.

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Effective stakeholder management is critical to change success. It begins with correctly and deliberately identifying all stakeholders in the change process and mapping them out in terms of their levels of influence and impact. This will enable the change agent to correctly involve the right stakeholders, know the kind of impact accrued to them, identify change risks with regard to the various stakeholders, and develop appropriate strategies to manage the different stakeholders. This, when well done should increase the chances of change success and minimise disruption during change.

Written By Dr. Antony Mburu

Dr. Mburu is an Organisation Development and Change Management Consultant