Map the Stakeholders

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Having faced the problem statement and defined the challenge space, the challenge owner or initiator now needs to gather the troops. In more complex settings or larger organisations, drafting a stakeholder map, outlining people involved, affected, or influenced both internally and externally is a necessary first step.

If you’re a project owner or initiator, one of your tasks will be to understand, manage, and bring together various parties affected by your intended endeavour, both internally and externally. One of the very first steps is to form a team, which in many cases will only be possible after surveying the list of the influenced and the influencers.

For this, you'll need some kind of plan. One such plan leveraged by many organisations is the stakeholder map. This could start out small and grow as your scope of research and investigation expands and you gain a clearer idea of the challenge territory. Your new team may join you in this endeavour. A whiteboard or wall chart with post-it notes could be enough to start getting the people scoped out quickly.

Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholders are those people, groups, or individuals who either have the power to affect, or are affected by the endeavour you're engaged with. They range from the head of your organisation to the man on the street who may experience the effects of what you set out to do. Stakeholders are affected and can affect your endeavours to varying degrees, and the degrees should be considered when analysing and mapping out the stakeholder landscape.

Mindtools.com provides some helpful guides on how to go about analysing whom your stakeholders are and what their influence may be. Their suggested approach is to plot on a graph their "Power of Influence" and their "Level of Interest" to give you an idea of how to manage the range of stakeholder needs.

Mapping the internal players and their levels of involvement, buy-in to the process and knowledge of, or experience with Design Thinking will allow the challenge owner to make some key decisions about who to include and when. It may also provide some insight as to who may need to be consulted, convinced, or asked for permission about using a Design Thinking approach.

Mapping external parties affected will provide a plan that can help you decide who to approach in the upcoming research phases that focus on empathy and human needs. For example, within a service design project, understanding the customer base, segmentation, and need variations may provide a good platform for setting up the various focus groups, observation plans, and other ethnographic methods that may be applied to gain customer insight.

Create a list of all those internally on the challenge owners' side of things: people within the company, organisation, or group attempting to tackle the challenge. The list should include anyone who will be affected in any way, directly or indirectly, and who will need to make a decision or act on the project in some way.

Give each person a rank in terms of importance and interest level; you can use your own scale of importance, depending on the number of people being assessed.

Gathering the listed stakeholders in groups, plot them onto the map in relation to their influence and interest. The pictures formed by both the internal and external stakeholder maps will give you a good indication of the type of team you may need to assemble to handle the Design Thinking challenge ahead.

Evaluating stakeholder influence and interest

Mindtools also provides a list of questions or considerations on these stakeholders, which are summarised below:

  • What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of your work?
  • What motivates them most of all?
  • What information do they want from you?
  • What is the best way of communicating your message to them?
  • What is their current opinion of your work?
  • Who influences their opinions generally, and who influences their opinion of you?
  • If they are not likely to be positive, what will win their support?
  • If you don't think you will be able to win them around, how will you manage their opposition?
  • Who else might be influenced by their opinions?

These questions will assist in further making sense of the map and understanding who to include in your team, and who the team may interface with going forward, both externally and internally. It also provides you with a good idea of which people will be most important to empathise with in the coming phases, where you will be exploring the human needs and experiences in your challenge space. The Mindtools stakeholder guide also provides a stakeholder mapping template to use in this process of making sense of who has an impact or is impacted by your challenge space.

The "DIYtoolkit People and Connections Map" inspired by Namahn and Yellow Window Service Design: Design Flanders (2012) Stakeholder Mapping provides an alternative visual method of mapping the spheres of influence and influenced across the spectrum of stakeholders.

An even deeper level of exploration is Cultural Mapping, an inquiry method developed by David Gray, an innovation and organisational change consultant; author of Gamestorming. Cultural Mapping may be suitable, for instance, where the very core of an organisation's purpose and values are being evaluated or redefined.

The Take Away

Stakeholders are those people, groups, or individuals who have either the power to affect, or are affected by the endeavour you're engaged with. They range from the head of your organisation to the man on the street who may experience the effects of what you set out to do. Stakeholders are affected and can affect your endeavours to varying degrees and the degrees should be considered when analysing and mapping out the stakeholder landscape.

References and Where to Learn More

MindTools.com. Stakeholder Analysis. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_07.htm

DIY Tool Kit, People Connections Map Template and Guide. http://diytoolkit.org/tools/people-connections-map/

ServiceDesignToolkit.org, Namahn and Yellow Window Service Design, Design Flanders (2012) Stakeholder Mapping Work Poster. http://servicedesigntoolkit.org/downloads-2011.html

Dave Gray,May 06, 2014, Culture mapping: Space and place. http://www.slideshare.net/dgray_xplane/culture-mapping-space-and-place

Hero image: Author/Copyright holder: Kennisland. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 2.0


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