Stakeholder Assessment and Management

Definition: Stakeholder management is the process of identifying stakeholder groups, the interests they represent, the amount of power they possess, and determining if they represent inhibiting or supporting factors toward the transformation. The objective of stakeholder planning and management is determining who the stakeholders are and how they should be dealt with [1].

Keywords: communications, interfaces, monitoring, power, risk development, stakeholders

MITRE SE Roles & Expectations: MITRE systems engineers must understand the importance of identifying both directly and indirectly impacted stakeholders in transformation planning and organizational change. System engineers must assess the impact of transformation on people and the organization to identify all stakeholders, identify transformation risks and issues, rank the risks associated with the transformation, and recommend mitigation strategies to sponsor executives. MITRE systems engineers should work closely with the sponsor's communications team to promote transformation awareness, understanding, and acceptance across key stakeholder groups.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned: Gaining the support of key stakeholders is critical to creating successful organizational change efforts [2].

Building Trust with Stakeholders

The Organizational Change Management Practice (OCM) in MITRE's Center for Connected Government (CCG) has conducted several stakeholder analyses on behalf of our sponsors. Lessons learned show that the following characteristics are common among effective stakeholder relationships:

  • A deep level of trust with the change sponsor and the stakeholder groups affected by the change initiative
  • Effective communication with the stakeholders allowing them to gain a new understanding of the benefits and costs of the change
  • Close change sponsor and change agents' relationships that allow them to become personally engaged in and committed to initiatives based on the findings and recommendations.

Identifying Stakeholders

MITRE systems engineers must ensure that representatives from all key stakeholders are included in the organizational impact assessments and that the assessment information collected is representative of the affected population. It is important to take into account geographic distribution of stakeholder groups to obtain the full range of perspectives.

During transformation planning, identify all key stakeholder groups including:

  • Decision makers involved in the decisions regarding the change
  • Change sponsors and agents responsible for executing the change
  • Employees [and contractors] directly impacted by the change
  • "Customers" of the change agents affected by the change
  • Representatives of all groups in headquarters and in field offices across the country (as appropriate).

Starting from a list of individuals and organizations provided by the sponsor, the stakeholder assessment team should ask interviewees and others within the sponsor's organization to provide suggestions for additional names and organizations to be included. The stakeholder assessment should seek out and integrate input from supporters, skeptics, and rivals of the transformation initiative.

Collecting and Analyzing Data

MITRE systems engineers must build relationships with the stakeholders throughout the transformation process [3]. They should employ a combination of one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and surveys to rapidly establish rapport and create an environment that contributes to the stakeholders being open and honest while describing challenging situations.

Rather than just fire off one question after the next, it is important to engage stakeholders in dialogue and exhibit interest in their opinions and perspectives. Ask follow-up questions to solicit specific examples and understand how stakeholders developed their opinions and perceptions. The interview protocol should include open-ended and Likert-scaled questions. Likert scales are a type of survey response format where survey respondents are asked to indicate their level of agreement/interest on a continuum (e.g., from strongly agree to strongly disagree or a numerical scale). This method provides a way to assign a quantitative value to qualitative information. Although there is a certain amount of variance inherent in Likert responses, these questions help bring a quantitative measure to enhancing understanding of stakeholders. In addition to asking probing questions on a variety of topics, solicit suggestions for addressing concerns.

Maintain detailed notes and analyze the information for key themes. Analyze the data to develop stakeholder maps (see Figure 1 below) to graphically display the relative influence and support that stakeholder groups have for the transformation. Overlay the quantitative (Likert data) to identify similarities and differences across the stakeholder networks.

Figure 1. Stakeholder Findings
Figure 2. Current vs. Required Level of Support

Presentation of Findings

Best Practices for developing and presenting stakeholder findings include:

  • Include history and context up front. This approach establishes a common understanding of the sponsor's challenging environment.
  • Provide "good news." Sharing success stories acknowledges what is going well and contributes to a balanced message. Change sponsors are not trying to make life difficult for their stakeholders; they are focused on achieving specific business objectives that may have been initiated by Congress or other external factors.
  • Present key themes and ground findings with specific examples. Identify overarching themes based on data analysis and include supporting evidence (including Likert data), examples, and quotes [4,5].
  • Highlight differences across stakeholder groups. (see Figure 1 above) Avoid making generalizations and note when opinions are consistent or divergent across stakeholder groups.
  • Provide general information about the change process. Sponsors are more open to receiving challenging feedback when they understand that their situation is not unique. Be careful not to overwhelm sponsors with too much theory.
  • Share recommendations and/or next steps. Findings are only useful in the context of how they can address issues and concerns. Sometimes, sponsors need to ponder the findings before engaging in recommendations. In that case, identifying next steps is helpful.
  • Present the findings by telling stories using the key themes and supporting data. This approach will enable the data to come alive for different stakeholder groups. Identify a few common themes when reporting findings to sponsors.

NOTE: Before the stakeholder assessment, the executive change sponsors may perceive the employees as resistant. As a result of the stakeholder assessment findings, they may realize that the perceived resistance was really a lack of understanding about the rationale for change and how to operationalize it.

When MITRE's systems engineers are asked to present the results from the stakeholder analysis to stakeholder groups, MITRE's approach should help build credibility. Stakeholders appreciate having their perspectives accurately presented to senior management and the value transparency that results from seeing the findings gathered across the stakeholder groups.


Stakeholders are a critical asset that may have a significant impact on transformation initiatives. Stakeholder analysis is an effective method for enabling different stakeholder groups to understand each other's perspectives and concerns. Establishing trust and credibility throughout the process—from planning and gathering to analyzing and presenting data—is critical to ensuring that the findings are valued and acted on.


  1. Gardner, J., R. Rachlin, and H. Sweeny, 1986, Handbook of Strategic Planning, John Wiley.
  2. Ostroff, Frank, 2006, "Change Management in Government," Harvard Business Review, 84(5), 141-147.
  3. Maister, D., C. Green, and R. Galford, 2000, The Trusted Advisor, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.
  4. Kassinis, G., and N. Vafeas, 2006, "Stakeholder Pressures and Environmental Performance," Academy of Management Journal, 49(1), 145-159.
  5. Mitchell, R., B. Agle, and D. Wood, 1997, "Toward a theory of stakeholder identification and salience: Defining the principle of who and what really counts," Academy of Management Review, 22, 853-886.


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