Stakeholder Engagement: Opportunities, Types and Vehicles

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Linda Ackerman Anderson
Dean Anderson

Creating an effective stakeholder engagement strategy is an extremely important aspect of your overall change strategy. The more engagement you have, the more commitment and positive contribution you will have, and, as engagement goes up, resistance goes down.

However, stakeholder engagement is not easy. It takes time and resources to coordinate involvement, and takes people away from their normal operational jobs. This article will help you think through the key aspects of stakeholder engagement in preparation for designing your engagement strategy.

Engage in What?

The first question to answer is, “In what change tasks do you want your stakeholders to engage?” Often, change leaders put off much engagement until the change effort is in its implementation phases. Generally, this is a mistake. By then many stakeholders, especially employees, will have already formulated their positions regarding supporting or resisting the change.

You should begin thinking about engagement the moment you conceive your need to change. Stakeholder engagement can and should begin very early in the change process, as early as assisting the leaders in the task of assessing the drivers of the change to the task of building the case for change. Certainly, employees (including executives and managers) should be engaged in understanding the case for change, if not helping to create it. They should learn about (even help create) the vision of the change, as well as the desired outcomes for it. They can also be involved in assessing customer requirements, doing benchmarking, even designing the future state. All of this occurs long before implementation.

Early stakeholder engagement will cause your initial phases of change to be more complex, but you will have to deal with far fewer people problems during implementation if you engage people early.

The following table lists the change tasks in The Change Leader’s Roadmap methodology with the most obvious opportunities for stakeholder engagement. You may engage stakeholder groups in other tasks, but these warrant serious consideration in any large change effort.


  • Task I.B.2    Assess Drivers of Change
  • Task I.B.5   Perform Initial Impact Analysis
  • Task I.C.1   Assess Readiness and Capacity
  • Task I.C.2   Build Readiness and Capacity
  • Task I.D.2   Ensure Leaders Model Desired Mindset and Behavior
  • Task I.D.3   Build Leader Commitment and Alignment
  • Task I.D.4   Develop Leaders’ Change Knowledge and Skills
  • Task I.D.6   Support Individual Executives and Change Leaders
  • Task I.E.8   Clarify Engagement Strategy
  • Task I.F.4   Design Information Generation and Management Strategies
  • Task I.F.5   Initiate Course Correction Strategy and System


  • Task I.F.6 Initiate Strategies for Supporting People through Emotional Reactions and Resistance
  • Task I.F.7   Initiate Temporary Support Mechanisms
  • Task I.F.9   Initiate Temporary Rewards
  • Task II.A.1   Communicate Case for Change and Change Strategy
  • Task II.A.2   Roll Out Process to Create Shared Vision and Commitment
  • Task II.A.3   Demonstrate that Old Way of Operating Is Gone
  • Task II.B.1   Build Organization’s Change Knowledge and Skills
  • Task II.B.2   Promote Required Mindset and Behavior Change
  • Task III.A.1   Assess Relevant Aspects of Your Organization
  • Task III.A.2   Benchmark Other Organizations for Best Practices
  • Task III.A.3   Clarify Customer Requirements
  • Task IV.A.2   Design Desired State
  • Task IV.A.3   Pilot Test
  • Task V.A.2   Identify and Group Impacts
  • Task V.A.3   Assess Magnitude of Impacts and Prioritize
  • Task VI.A.2   Identify Impact Solutions and Action Plans
  • Task VI.A.3   Integrate Solutions and Action Plans and Compile Implementation Master Plan
  • Task VI.A.4   Design Strategies to Sustain Energy for Change
  • Task VI.B.2   Support People through Implementation
  • Task VI.B.3   Communicate Implementation Master Plan
  • Task VII.A.1   Roll Out Implementation Master Plan
  • Task VIII.A.1   Celebrate Achievement of Desired State
  • Task VIII.B.1   Support Individuals and Teams to Integrate and Master New State
  • Task VIII.B.2   Support Whole System to Integrate and Master New State
  • Task IX.A.1   Build System to Continuously Improve New State
  • Task IX.B.1   Learn from Your Change Process and Establish Best Practices

Who to Engage?

Once you have identified the change tasks in which you want significant engagement, you then must answer the questions, “Which stakeholders to engage?” Clearly, employees or sub-sets of them (supervisors, managers, plant workers, etc.) will be the most often engaged stakeholders. However, you should scan your entire project community map to ascertain the best stakeholder to engage in each task.

Engage in What Ways?

Once you have identified the change tasks and stakeholders, you must clarify what you want them to do in their engagement. The diagram, Types of Engagement, lists the various ways you might engage stakeholders in any change task. Do you want specific stakeholder groups to perform some rote action, offer original thinking such as providing input or advice, make decisions, or create results they own? As you move across the types of engagement continuum toward creating results, the engagement provides greater influence, and therefore, generates more commitment. People are more committed to processes when they own the results and the actions to achieve them.

The diagram below breaks down the four classifications of engagement into eight different types of engagement. In any given Rote Action change task, you might use different types of engagement for each stakeholder group you engage in that task.

Types of Engagement

Engage How?

The following table, Vehicles for Employee Engagement, specifies the various methods of engagement, both technological and faceto-face, for engaging individuals, small groups, and large groups. Face-to-face engagement usually has more impact than do technological vehicles.

Often, you might decide it best to use multiple vehicles for any given change task and stakeholder group. For example, you might begin your engagement regarding communicating your case for change and vision with supervisors using a large group, face-to-face vehicle. Then a week later, you might plan a work product to be produced in the supervisor’s work team, followed a week later with a response form to be filled out on your change effort’s intranet site by individual supervisors.

Be sure to use the vehicles for engagement that will deliver the results you need from each engagement. Do not expect technological engagements to deliver the same quality of human impact as face-toface.

Many new vehicles for engaging large groups are being developed. These are often touted as change methodologies, but this is a misnomer; they are actually meeting methodologies. A great reference book that explains many of these methodologies is The Change Handbook, Holman, P., Devane, T., and Cody, S., Berrett-Keohler, San Francisco, CA, 2007

Individual Small Group Large Group
Face-to-Face Meeting
Advisory Councils
Project Teams
Task Forces
Focus Groups
Brown Bag Lunches
Learning Map Discussion                Teams
World Cafe
System-Wide Networks          (i.e.,ambassadors,representatives,  advocates)
Conference Model
World Cafe
Open Space
Real-time Strategic ChangeFuture Search
Appreciative Inquiry
Learning Map Rollouts
All-Hands Meetings
Technological Video Conferencing
Telephone Call
Interactive Website
Instant Messaging
Response Form
Newsletter; newspaper
Written Memo
Video Conferencing
Telephone Conferencing
Online, Real-time Workgroups
Video Conferencing
Telephone Conferencing

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