“In an age where everything and everyone is linked through networks of glass and air, no one – no business, organization, government agency, country–is an island. We need to do right by all our stakeholders, and that’s how you create value….” –Don Tapscott, author
In my early 20s, I learned an important lesson about stakeholders. I had just graduated from college and was invited to serve on a Board of Directors for a community-based theater company. My undergraduate degree was in Fine Arts and Theater, so I thought I was well-prepared for the role and could bring a lot of value to the organization. At the time, the board was discussing how to make a greater impact in the area. As I began studying the community theater company, I surmised that it could be much more successful, if we expanded the number of plays produced and included an educational program for children. So in my first months on the board, I wrote a proposal for discussion. It was a well-crafted plan with a clear rationale and achievable budget. The proposal represented significant change to the community theater company, in that it would involve bringing in another director to supplement the efforts of the already overtaxed artistic director.
When it came time to present my proposal at the board meeting, I was completely floored when it was met with hostility by the artistic director, vascillating support from a few members, and multiple reasons why the plan would not work. Thinking over what I did wrong, I realized that I had not consulted with or understood all the stakeholder needs involved in such a change effort. Certainly, I had underestimated the artistic director’s need to have artistic control over every production. It was a valuable lesson for me and one that I won’t forget.
Understanding and managing stakeholders is a key part of strategy setting in any change effort. Yet, it is often overlooked or undermanaged. Just as I neglected to consult with stakeholders when proposing a change to a community theater’s operation, it can be enticing to just get started with a change effort, without the necessary step of conducting a stakeholder analysis. Stakeholders in higher education include students, employees (faculty, staff, and administrators), government, community and business members. Anyone who has an interest in our colleges and universities ability to educate students and deliver and sustain the enterprise into the future can be a stakeholder.
Involving and consulting with stakeholders as you develop your change strategy can increase the likelihood that your change effort is both successful and sustainable. To get started, I recommend conducting a stakeholder analysis to:
- Identify critical stakeholders
- Understand their short- and long-term interests
- Analyze stakeholder influence on your change strategy
- Assess the impact of change on multiple stakeholders
There are many good stakeholder analysis tools available today, including matrix grids and spider web diagrams. I’d recommend the following link, if you’re looking for a place to get started: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_07.htm
How have you successfully consulted with or involved stakeholders in change efforts?