Biggest Change Management Mistake: Treating All Stakeholders the Same
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Biggest Change Management Mistake: Treating All Stakeholders the Same

Treating all stakeholders the same is one of the most common, yet biggest, mistakes that change managers make today. Why? Because they’re not the same.

As a sports fan – one who likes to both play and watch sports on TV – I came up with an analogy to illustrate the complexity of change management. The difference between the challenges of a technology implementation and a people implementation is like the difference between golf and baseball.

A Technology Implementation Is Like Golf

A technology implementation is like golf. Much like a golfer hitting the little white ball that is at rest, the systems for the most part are not “moving” when my team and I perform an implementation. (This is where the analogy may break down a little – the technologists in the audience might argue that systems are always moving and changing. However, for the sake of this illustration, let’s assume that the system is not undergoing massive change at the time we implement the new technology.)

Of course, a technology implementation is not easy, nor is golf. I have played for years and my handicap is still around 12. At the end of the day, though, I stand over the ball and attempt to execute my well-rehearsed and perfected swing, hoping to look up and see the ball sailing with a slight draw towards the flag, setting us up for birdie.

A “People” Implementation Is Like Baseball

From pitch to pitch, the ball that comes at the batter at different speeds, in different locations, and with different spins. Rarely does the batter see the same exact pitch twice in the same at bat. That’s change management. Rarely are any two stakeholders the same – with the same goals, same disposition to the project, same issues and concerns, and ultimately, the same level of support.

How to Proceed

1. Connect with Key Stakeholders

A well-executed change management strategy meets individual stakeholders where they are, at the right time, with the right messages, and in ways that work for them. For my team to get their support, we have to go after them and not expect that they will come to us simply because we exist. This is where a stakeholder analysis is important.

A strong stakeholder analysis identifies stakeholders (from primary to ancillary), the level of impact that the project will have on them, their current disposition towards the project, the target disposition for the stakeholder (where do we want them to be at go-live?), known issues or concerns, and ultimately, their priority.

From there, a change management team can interview stakeholders to form relationships and learn about concerns and build a communication strategy that will effectively move them toward (or keep them within) alignment of the project’s goals.

2. Have a Clear View

As the project conditions change and stakeholders learn more about the project (for better or for worse), their dispositions, concerns, and needs change. My team iterates our stakeholder analysis regularly to keep up with the dynamic nature of our stakeholders, again ensuring that we are tailoring our messages to ensure that at go-live, we’ll have our stakeholder group(s) where we want and need them to be. Back to my baseball analogy: imagine a batter stepping up to the plate with a blindfold on, swinging randomly at pitches because they don’t know where they are. In the end, they will probably strike out.

Download our guide, How to Overcome 5 Change Management Mistakes, for more insights.

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