Changes can come at an organization in a fast and furious way that forces change practitioners to be fast and furious with their planning. When this happens, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and just start developing a list of things you need to do, but your list is just a guess unless you take the time to get to know your audience and what is in it for them.

Stakeholder analysis is one of the most important tools in a change practitioner’s toolkit. I spend more time on this part of the process than most of my colleagues because I find having a thorough stakeholder analysis in my pocket helps build a much more solid change strategy.

It’s not enough to just know who your stakeholders are on a project. You need to know what will motivate them and what will push their buttons. You need to know what level of support they have for the change right now and where you want them to fall on a grid that maps their level of influence against their support for the project. The general rule is, the more influential the group is, the more supportive you need them to be.

The last piece of a stakeholder analysis is deciding how you are going to use each group to help the organization adopt the change more quickly. This is the strategic part. I may want to leverage one group as a cheerleader, neutralize another, and maintain the level of support another already has. Once you know how you want to use the group, you can design activities to help you get there. Most of these activities will become part of your overall Change Management Plan for the project.

Here are some general steps to follow in developing your own stakeholder analysis.

Step 1: Identify your stakeholders

Talk to your project sponsor and team members to put together your initial list. It’s best to start with listing who the stakeholder groups are. You can list any group that is impacted by your project, but be sure to note those who have the ability to impact the success of your project. These are your first tier stakeholders and the ones you’ll want to spend the most time analyzing.

Step 2: Interview your stakeholders

Pick 3-4 individuals from within each of those groups to interview. Two of the most fundamental questions you need to answer in stakeholder analysis are: “What is in it for me (WIIFM),” and “What is against my interest (WAMI)?” Find out what they know about the project so far, how they feel about it, and what aspects of the project are most/least appealing to them.

Step 3: Analyze your results

Make a list of the WIIFMs and WAMIs for each group. Use your data to evaluate the support and influence of each group and map them on a stakeholder grid (shown above).

Step 4: Develop a stakeholder strategy

Decide how you will use each group to achieve your goals. Then, develop specific actions to help you get there.