Engage them all??

Human nature, and most leadership books, drive us to focus on full engagement all the time.

overwhelmedIn fact, many leaders I work with feel compelled to spend time and energy engaging all their stakeholders during change. While this sounds like a good idea it ends up overwhelming them and is a poor use of time!

In reality, change leaders can safely and successfully ignore some of their stakeholders as mere annoyances. The tricky part is knowing who you can ignore and who you can’t ignore. An analysis tool created by the Implementation Institute  can help you determine where to focus your stakeholder engagement efforts. After you have completed  a traditional stakeholder analysis and identified the impact and importance of all your stakeholders their tool examines stakeholder’s resistance to the change and influence on the change to create 4 groups to help you plan your engagement strategy. (Click on the image to enlarge)

Stakeholder influence




  1. Advocates: powerful supporters who are not to be overlooked. Work to recruit them to help you with your engagement activities and even delegate important communication or influence tasks to them. You can leverage their support and increase overall engagement.
  2. Allies: supporters with little influence. They are engaged and require little time or energy from you. Be sure to check-in with them and you can invite them to events for their enthusiasm but overall are a small part of your strategy.
  3. Antagonists: powerful resisters who need your time and attention and must be engaged to ensure success. Your engagement strategy will focus on these stakeholders and this is where you will spend your time.
  4. Annoyances: resistors with little influence. Due to their limited influence on the current change you can safely spend little to no time or effort trying to engage this group of stakeholders.

To increase the success of your change efforts resist the urge to spend too much time connecting with your allies or persuading those pesky resisters, who do not have any influence, to embrace the change. Your limited time is better used  engaging your powerful antagonists and leveraging your advocates.

Todd Thorsgaard


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