Stakeholder = Constituent

Have you identified your key constituents?Have you identified your key constituents?

Have you identified your key constituents?

Have you identified your key constituents?

Stakeholder is a very descriptive word that identifies those that have a stake in the outcome of our change initiative. A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in our change initiative or who our change may affect. This is purposefully a pretty broad definition. It’s not just your bosses or the people who can fire you as a change leader.

I use the word stakeholder because it’s industry standard.

There is a better descriptor though. I like the word constituent. The word constituent implies a responsibility on the part of the change leader. We ‘owe’ something to these important recipients of the results of our change efforts.

To be successful it is necessary to worry about our constituents – about how our change will affect them and what matters to them. Try the word constituent as a replacement for the word stakeholder, letting the label constituent serve as a reminder of our responsibilities. Getting done’ with a change project has new meaning with this mindset.

Constituent Analysis

Stakeholder Analysis or what we now call Constituent Analysis is at best typically done mentally. Usually to complete the tasks of a project management methodology we make a list of key stakeholders. We file that list in a book and put it on a shelf.

How about if instead we actually analyze our constituents and consider these constituents in each and every decision we make when leading change? This way of thinking seems obvious but in fact is revolutionary when leading change.

In the science of project management we are taught to manage the three major constraints – quality, time, and budget. These constraints represent the reality of any business project.

Let’s go farther and consider the true purpose of a change initiative – the people we serve. Our constituents.

Why do we do Constituent Analysis? The information gathered during Constituent Analysis will be used to create a plan to secure the commitment of each individual stakeholder and stakeholder group to change their behavior. We’re going to use this data in planning, communication, change breakthrough analysis, and change readiness. In other words, all the components of our process.

The Constituent Analysis plan should:

  • Outline the perceptions and positions of each constituency, including the means of involving them in the change process and securing their commitment
  • It should define how you intend to leverage these stakeholders’ enthusiasm and resources
  • Constituent Analysis should also address how you will minimize risks, including the negative impact of those who will oppose the change

Constituent Analysis, incorporating a plan to secure the commitment of each constituent and constituent group, should be developed concurrently with the development of your change project objectives and action items. As you create your plans, you will also be generating action items that represent change just by the nature of the project’s existence.

The Steps

As mentioned above, Stakeholder Analysis usually involves only one or two steps and is seldom an ongoing process. In our methodology there are actually seven steps and constituents are considered in every task and decision.

We’ll cover these steps in detail in the Web Series but here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Who can influence others?
  • Who are the individuals and groups who will be most affected by the change?
  • Who is leading other change initiatives that will affect ours and/or be affected by it? Likely your change initiative is part of a bigger picture. It’s necessary to understand these relationships.
  • What organizational boundaries will our change project cross and who are the key players at these boundary crossings?

Learn as much about the stakeholders as possible – The better you know your stakeholder groups and individuals, the better you will be able to foresee how to influence them. To develop an effective plan you will need to consider each person and group. If you have large stakeholder groups, subdivide them into smaller groups, and identify key players within each subgroup. Your objective is to develop a credible map of the stakeholders’ perceived interests and levels of influence.

Think about your constituents. We’ll go even deeper next week when we talk about the Change Planning and Monitoring workshop. See you next Monday.

About the Author

Jim Canterucci is an executive advisor, professional speaker, author, and the founder of tech start-up Constituent Hub. Leaders receive Jim’s popular Saturday Morning emails that bring ideas and mind set directly from the executive suite. Subscribe for what could be the most valuable 15 minutes of your week. Jim also writes weekly about leadership, innovation and change at JimCanterucci.com.

Jim Canterucci – who has written posts on Market Leadership Journal.


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