At the start of any strategic planning or foresight work, it’s important to identify an organization’s key stakeholders. The problem is that most organizations think too narrowly, focusing on either their existing customers and partners.
Leaders and teams should work methodically to identify every possible stakeholder using proximity as a guide. When FTI works with organizations, we always begin with the following exercise. We start by asking who, exactly, are the “familiar” stakeholders within the organization? Not just top-level departments, but actual people. After all, it’s the people within organizations who make decisions and execute strategy.
Then we move one or two steps away from the organization and identify “adjacent” stakeholders. Who are all of the organizations and people that are directly connected to the organization — but who might be a few steps removed? Examples might include associations, regulators, universities, policymakers, financial institutions and shareholders.
Finally, we ask about “theoretical” stakeholders. These are people and companies that might someday be directly linked to the organization but aren’t yet. These might include people born in the year 2000, who will be entering the workforce in the year 2022… startups exiting tech accelerators… R&D labs just beginning work on a project.
Once we get a row completed, we move on to all of the other stakeholders within an organization’s orbit. The first row is fixed, because organizations themselves, and the people within them, are primary stakeholders. The rows that follow are somewhat malleable. They might include partners, suppliers, customers, stores, big tech companies, vendors and the like. When working through the key stakeholder activity, you might need three rows or more.
The key stakeholder work is completed once you’ve exhausted all the possibilities for the entire matrix. From here, you can begin to think about trends, develop scenarios and create strategy.
The Future Today Institute’s tools and research are now open source. We invite you to use and build upon the material in this toolkit. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.