Spotlight | Expert's opinion

Expert's opinion: Want to make change stick? Understand the people

Have you ever worked on a project that was delivered on time, on budget, only to discover a sudden and unexpected resistance to the change that is being implemented?

If so, you'll understand the importance of understanding a wider range of stakeholder perspectives when working on a change project. Change is an undeniably human endeavor, and successful change traverses a careful path between them all.

Yet so often, projects focus on only certain aspects of the change, with the technology being one particular favorite. It is tempting to reverse engineer an existing system, define a fantastic set of requirements or user stories, speak to the product owner and a few other stakeholders, and then work on delivering ‘a solution’. However, whilst all these activities are undoubtedly useful in some cases, we can amplify their effectiveness by enhancing our understanding of the stakeholder landscape. We might well find we have more stakeholders than we think…

Imagine releasing some enhancements on an IT system used by a call center. Who would you say the ‘user’ of the system is? The call center operators themselves, right? Well, yes and no. These folks would certainly be key ‘users’ but there are others that we would be foolish to ignore. One key person would be the customer who is ringing into the call center.
They might not ‘use’ the IT system, but they ‘use’ the process and are probably the whole reason that the process exists, they are a beneficiary. It would be a real own-goal to create a process change that is very effective for the call center operator, but completely ineffective for the customer. Yet it’s very easy to do.

One simple tool to help us think more broadly is UCOB.  This stands for User, Customer, Owner and Beneficiary and is a ‘thinking tool’ that can help us think about different stakeholders that are affected by, or interested in, a particular service. 

Users:

  • Contact center workers (want quick, efficient system)

  • Managers (want management information/reports

Economic Customer:

  • Chief Operating Officer (pays for implementation of system)

Owners:

  • IT Support Team (maintain it)

  • Training team (maintain knowledge of processes)

  • Call Center Manager (owns process)

Beneficiaries

  • Customer (participates in process and receives outcome)

  • Marketing team (use data collected with consent to spot trends)

This could be refined over several iterations, and it's normal to add other categories too. There will be lively debates over who the ‘customer’ is, who the ‘beneficiary’ is—these are useful discussions to have. They ensure that we are zooming out and gaining a big-picture view of the stakeholder landscape.

Alongside UCOB, there are a range of other tools and techniques that we can use.

These include:

  • A Stakeholder Rainbow

  • Stakeholder Interest Intensity Index

  • Political Matrix

  • PQR/Root Definition

  • Cognitive Mapping

There are of course, many more besides this, and the specific techniques that we use will depend a great deal on the context.  What is certain, however, is that we ignore stakeholder analysis at our peril!

For more information about the techniques mentioned in this article, see the Advanced Stakeholder Analysis course on The Master Channel

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