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Why Change Projects Fail – Every Stakeholder Has Their Own Agenda

6 engagement failures and 6 strategies to manage stakeholders effectively

When developing change management strategy and assessing the reasons for resistance to change in an organization, change leaders must not neglect the project’s stakeholders. In this article, you’ll learn why it’s important to consider the stakeholders in organizational change, and five ways in which leaders of change can manage those stakeholders to improve engagement.

Why it is important to manage stakeholders through the change process

Whatever your change project, there will be various stakeholders in it. From individuals to teams, these stakeholders will have their own perceptions of what they stand to gain (or lose) because of the change. Each will behave accordingly. Those that perceive the biggest gains will likely be most accepting of the new vision. A manager who will see his or her sphere of influence half will be less engaged.

To develop the strategies which will help to increase engagement in transformational change, you must first understand the reasons for resistance to change in an organization. You must understand each stakeholder’s internalized objectives, and then manage their interests and expectations.

Stakeholders don’t disengage, leaders fail to engage

There are six classic errors made by change leaders who mismanage the stakeholders of change. These are:

  1. Failing to identify the stakeholders
  2. Not viewing the change initiative and its impacts through the eyes of its stakeholders
  3. Imposing change without gaining buy-in
  4. Allowing or enabling one stakeholder to have the major say, to the detriment of smaller stakeholders
  5. Failing to provide necessary coaching and training to transition to the future vision and adapt organizational culture
  6. Ineffective communication with and between all stakeholders

Six strategies to manage stakeholders of change

  1. Identify the stakeholders by analyzing what the project seeks to achieve and how it is likely to impact different people and teams in your organization. Stakeholders will have different influences, and leaders should seek to assess these influencers early on in the process. They range from a significant stakeholder who has power to impact decisions, to a low-level stakeholder with little influence.
  2. Speak to each stakeholder openly. Explain what the project’s goals are and learn more about how they perceive it will affect them. This will provide valuable insight into hidden agendas. Leaders with high emotional intelligence will be more adept at identifying these agendas without causing conflict.
  3. Create an environment where dialogue is encouraged and concerns are shared. This is likely to include team meetings and one-to-ones. Treat all stakeholders with respect and don’t allow one to have a greater influence – if you do, you risk alienating smaller stakeholders and creating an alliance of resistance.
  4. Communicate the goals of the change initiative with clarity from the outset. Ensure that all stakeholders understand their roles and manage these continuously by persuing a cooperative approach to change: without collaboration, your change efforts will unravel.
  5. Look for your change champions. It is tempting to put all your focus on the stakeholders who are likely to be the source of most resistance to change. By doing so, you may miss opportunities to employ the positive influence of those stakeholders who stand to gain most from the change. These may have the power to create renewed engagement among other stakeholders.
  6. Identify coaching needs by frank and open discussion. Ensure that all stakeholders understand their responsibilities to identify these needs, and how doing so will have a positive impact on the outcome of change.

The most important stakeholder management strategy is to listen

It’s easy to get caught up in a change project and forget the most important of all communication strategies – listening. If you don’t listen with empathy, you risk making the assumptions that create communication havoc and deteriorate relationships.

Listen to what your stakeholders are telling you. Then address their concerns, engage them in finding solutions, and create a powerful axis for positive change.

Develop the skills, strategies, and techniques that will drive your organization’s change leadership capabilities. To discover how a Change Agent Bootcamp and coaching in consulting and facilitating will help your organization and leaders produce lasting change, contact Forward Focus today.

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