Stakeholders positive role in change

A change agent is a person or a thing that is a catalyst for change. Stakeholders who are hange agents transform businesses by encouraging others to change. For example by helping to change processes, tools, or behaviours.
Stakeholders can be effective change agents and stakeholder engagement strategies should include plans to utilise positive and influential stakeholders to help drive changes.

As Bill McElroy and Chris Mills note in the Gower Handbook of Project Management:
stakeholders should be viewed as having a vital role to play as change agents - positively changing the way others view the project. McElroy and Mills, p. 763
They draw a distinction between 'hard' and 'soft' projects. Hard being delivery of a tangible item, for example a road or software and soft being focussed on less tangible deliverables like changing behaviours or attitudes. Stakeholders are more likely to be useful change agents on soft projects - in these cases the stakeholder's own experience and networks (social connections) can help them to influence others.

How to use positive stakeholders

McElroy and Mills give some examples of how champion stakeholder can be used as change agents on soft projects:
  • persuading people to change working practices
  • getting staff to think differently about profit
  • asking customers to purchase in new ways
On hard projects positive stakeholders can help with marketing, training or by helping other stakeholders through their experience of the change.

For example, a University in the UK work with stakeholders who live near to their campus. These stakeholder change agents help the university to maintain relations with the local area during major campus redevelopments. The stakeholders help smooth the impact of the changes & reduce opposition by door knocking and chatting with residents about their concerns or just by letting residents know about changes on campus.

To Identify stakeholder change agents, first complete an analysis of your stakeholders which will enable you to identify powerful and interested stakeholders who can positively influence others. Learn how to analyse your stakeholders.

References and further reading on Stakeholders as Change Agents

Turner, R. ed., 2007. Gower Handbook of Project Management, Aldershot: Gower.

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