stakeholder mapping

Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholder Mapping is a process tool to assist you to better understand the lay of the land, the various players in it and to strategise one or several paths through the power and political landscape of your organisation.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

The above quote is a remark widely attributed to Peter Drucker and popularised in 2006 by Mark Fields, president of Ford Motor Company. To us, it means that the intangible collective aspects of an organisation - its culture, the myths and stories people tell each other about what the organisation is like and how it operates, the symbolic meaning people attach to decisions, behaviours, systems and structures - have the power to either strengthen or dramatically undermine these more concrete aspects of organisational practices, such as the strategic or operational plans, systems-of-work and standard-operating-procedures, and the authorised authority and delegation structures.

From a 4Q Framework, Q3 is at least as big if not bigger than Q4.

Power relationships and political dynamics are major elements of any culture and organisational system. So if you want to be effective when you are implementing any strategy or plan, you need to consider the power and politics at play in your business or organisation.

Specifically, you need to think carefully and deeply about all of the people who have a stake in what you are trying to achieve and to  deeply consider what they want, how powerful they are in the  realisation of your plans and whether they are supportive of your  efforts or not.

And then you need to plan for what you are going to do about it.

There are a number of steps to this process tool. However, this is not a linear tick-box exercise. The quality of your thinking and your creativeness in testing your assumptions will be critical to the effectiveness of your political outcomes.

At several points it will be very useful to bounce your ideas off a trusted colleague or friend; a critical eye from outside the political system is often a good foil. An outsider's 'ignorance' will mean you need to explain your assumptions in greater detail, hopefully exposing any logical leaps or previously hidden biases or your own unspoken agenda (we all have one or two).

stakeholder mapping 1
Step 1: Create a grid to plot your stakeholders

The vertical axis indicates how influential the person or group is in the organisational system on the success or failure of your position or project.

The horizontal axis indicates increasing energy and action by your stakeholders; aligned intent to the right and counter to the left. The horizontal centre line (the vertical axis) indicates they are unaware of your project, intent, or decision. Each step to the right is a step of further increasing 'pro' intent or action; to the left indicates increasing 'anti' sentiment or action

stakeholder mapping 2
Step 2: Plot your stakeholders' starting positions
Where are your most important stakeholders now? How would you know?

You could 'take their perspectives' (i.e. assume you know what they are  thinking) or, better still, you could 'seek their perspectives' and actually ask  them what they think (it is remarkable how often people believe they know  what others think or feel, but have not actually checked this out... to their  detriment)

In this example, A is mobilised against your position and quite influential; B is very influential, but unaware; C knows what you want to do, but has little influence.

In this example, you are facing considerable political headwinds
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Step 3: Where would you like to reposition your stakeholders?
A better configuration for your preferred outcome could be...

  • A has less influence and is not working against your outcome...
  • B becomes aware of what you are trying to do and the benefits, and becomes strong a supporter, and takes some action

  • C also moves into action and has more influence in the process or decision-making
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Step 4: Plan your actions with respect to each stakeholder
This is the difficult part.

This is where you strategise concrete actions that you are authorised to take that will hopefully reposition your stakeholders' perspectives and actions. For example:

A: Recognise they see you as a rival and convince them that you do not want to follow their chosen path; that you do not want the promotion they want very badly

B: Realise they are being 'gatekept' and find a way to get the face time to pitch your idea and its benefits

C: Is from a business unit seen as irrelevant and unhelpful; educate people on C's resources, skills and how they can help not only this project but also more widely
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Step 5: Where are they now?
Depending on the quality of your relationship-building, influencing skills, rational argumentation and the politics of your social system, you may succeed in changing your stakeholders' perspectives and hopefully their decisions to support your outcome.

Repeat until you get what you need or the situation changes.