3 Ways to Actively Involve Stakeholders to Accelerate Change

A compass pointing to a Better Way to Actively Involve Stakeholders to Accelerate Change

Actively Involve Stakeholders to Accelerate Change
When you seek to initiate change in your organization – from a strategic shift to a cultural transformation to an important project – actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change as early in the process as possible.  Then create a mechanism to monitor progress, create transparency and hold people accountable.  Otherwise the inherent disconnect between the C-Suite and the frontline will sabotage your best laid plans.

The Definition of Key Stakeholders
Let’s start with a definition of stakeholders.  Who you define as your key stakeholders and how you involve them is an important strategic choice for any change initiative.  We define key stakeholders as the constituents that matter most in terms of having:

  • Influence or power over your work
  • Vested interest in the successful or unsuccessful conclusion of your work

While there are many proven methods for performing a stakeholder analysis, in general those with the most influence, power and interest in your work should be actively involved from the start and kept in close check during the change process.  Those with the less influence, power and interest can be monitored and informed as the need arises.

The Basics of How to Actively Involve Stakeholders to Accelerate Change
Though the decision for change in the organization is likely to originate at the leadership level weeks, months or years before the rest of the organization is brought into the fold, leaders are typically not the actual implementers of the change.  They may initiate it, define it, articulate it, and communicate it to the rest of the company…but they are usually not the ones to put it into action.

Leaders must depend upon their managers and frontline employees to execute change.  But how they transfer the intent, commitment and accountability from their executive vantage point to those across the organization will have a lot to do with how successful the change will be.  And in general, the farther away from the executive team you get, the more time you must spend actively involving those impacted by change if you want to win over their hearts and their minds.

Three Ways to Actively Involve Stakeholders to Accelerate Change
If change is to be executed smoothly across functions, teams and levels, change leaders must actively involve all key stakeholders early and often to increase understanding.  Greater understanding leads to greater ownership.  And greater ownership leads to greater levels of engagement, accountability and resilience.

1. Include Stakeholders Early, Frequently and Honestly
Inclusion and involvement is not the same as buy-in. Inclusion and involvement focus on letting people have a say in “how” change will be made.  Buy-in focuses on “whether” the change should be made.  In our experience, the “what” and “why” of most transformational strategic or organizational changes are not up for debate.  But the “how” certainly is.

For high levels of inclusion and involvement you need high levels of transparency and communication.  Our organizational alignment research found that the timely and transparent flow of information was 12.5 times better at high performing companies as measured by revenue growth, profitability, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.  The more your key stakeholders feel like they helped to design the implementation of the changes you seek, the greater your chances for success.

Unfortunately too many leaders fail to involve key stakeholders until the plans for action are fully baked.  If you seek change, at a minimum ensure those affected by change:

  • Believe in the new direction
  • Can articulate the rationale for the change
  • Understand the plan to get there
  • Know the part they and their teams are expected play

2. Assign Resources and Accountability
For change to succeed, you must signal that the changes are important by disproportionately investing the right resources (people, capabilities, capital, time) required to make it happen and then measuring and rewarding the change you desire. People are looking to see if the change is truly a priority by being resourced and measured accordingly.

Without transparently measuring results, your stakeholders will not know where things stand.  When people are accountable, they work together toward a known, measurable and common goal.  Managers need to be empowered to make the change happen and must know that they will be in charge of seeing that the transformation actually takes place.

You will know you are headed in the right direction when you see high levels of collaboration between levels and functions at the same time that performance and behavioral expectations are increasing.

3. Empower Those Affected by Change
Once you actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change and given them the right levels of resources and accountability, those affected by change must feel empowered to identify and solve problems themselves.  It is not easy to keep everyone engaged and pulling in the same direction during organizational change. To help accelerate change through empowerment, ensure your leaders ruthlessly identify and remove the barriers that hinder change.

The Bottom Line
Leaders may initiate change but managers and their team members will execute it.  Only when leaders actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change will actual change occur.  And only if the managers clearly understand the rationale for the change, accept accountability and feel supported can it be successful.  The key is to actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change.

To learn more about how to actively involve stakeholders to accelerate change, download The 5 New Lenses of Change Leadership

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