Engaging Stakeholders to Drive Transformational Change



By Evan Piekara

Washington, DC, USA



Technical prowess is not enough in managing change efforts. Crafting a change management plan requires careful consideration and knowledge of stakeholders to introduce, drive, and reinforce change. This paper provides lessons learned and considerations on engaging the right stakeholders, at the right time and using the right medium, to brace an organization for sustainable change.

Build Your Stakeholder Strategy

When going through any transformational change, the best systems, processes, and technology are not always enough to ensure a smooth transition. The success or failure of any change management effort lies in your ability to communicate and engage stakeholders by identifying the right audience, at the right time, using the most appropriate medium to deliver the message. Adept change agents and project managers can avoid miscues through a comprehensive stakeholder analysis and communications plan. These tools will enable the message to not just be communicated, but also be received, understood, and acted upon.

Crisis Averted!

Early in my career, I was part of a team that was responsible for conducting a workload analysis and designing performance activities and standards for a large percentage of an organization’s workforce. The goal of this effort was to develop targets that were aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities, calibrate performance so that employees were evaluated more fairly, and identify high-performers to share best practices and consider in succession planning. At the same time, our team was also focusing training efforts on core knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to further develop the workforce. Facing an ambitious timeline and lofty goals, we had little margin for error.

Our team followed change management 101, engaged leadership and had executive support, identified key stakeholders and built a guiding coalition, and (over-) communicated the vision and goals of the project. As we neared completion and the product was undergoing executive review, the leadership team brought union leadership to the table to review the “near-final” performance standards. As the discussions digressed, we recognized our near fatal flaw, timing. While we had identified the right stakeholder, we had brought them in too late in the process. Not involving union leadership from the beginning had enabled rumors to circulate and metastasize, fear of these changes to spread, and union opposition to harden. It created a perception that the union’s opinion was not valued or that leadership was attempting to force change upon them rather than give them a seat at the table.

Our team had to quickly update our project schedule and communications plan to account for this mistake. Whenever possible, in-person meetings with union leaders became the preferred method of communication so that we could respond to body language and build a stronger rapport. Union members who were part of the earlier design process shared their roles and feedback on the process with union representatives to show that there was buy-in and involvement by union members.


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How to cite this article:  Piekara, E. (2018). Engaging Stakeholders to Drive Transformational Change, PM World Journal, Volume VII, Issue XI – November. Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/pmwj76-Nov2018-Piekara-Engaging-Stakeholders-advisory-article.pdf


About the Author

Evan Piekara

Washington, DC, USA




Evan Piekara currently works in management consulting as a Senior Manager for BDO Public Sector. Evan supported the launch of BDO’s Public Sector Management Consulting Practice by helping government and nonprofit organizations develop strategic plans, establish and analyze performance metrics, and manage change efforts. In this capacity, Evan has collaborated with a range of executive leaders and managed diverse, cross-functional teams to deliver solutions to complex challenges under tight timelines. Evan currently holds professional certifications in Project Management (PMP), Change Management, Conflict Management, Lean Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, Strategic Organizational Leadership, and Continuous Process Improvement.

Evan can be contacted at [email protected]