How to best categorize your stakeholders?

According to Wikipedia, Stakeholder as a term was first used 1963 by Stanford Research Institute and it defines “A corporate stakeholder can affect or be affected by the actions of a business as a whole“. Since then a lot of research and dialog has gone into looking at “Stakeholders” and how to best use them in the context of change management. In many ways it is the most overused term in Change.

Based on the change the world is going through with technology and seeing it through that lens, I begin to believe that there is a new emerging lexicon with the various players in a change. Please take a moment to reflect and let me know your thoughts.


These are the obsessive thinkers in your organization who challenge status quo, bring a new perspective, (or) sometimes are the ones feeling the pain and have the courage to speak up on how to make things better. All they then need is a platform & leadership that feeds on their thinking objectively.


Yes there are intended/unintended competitors. In large corporations when silos become the norm, every one is running with a different set of priorities and as a result end up becoming intended/unintended competitors. In such cases, just aligning visions for the broader outcomes goes a long way (easier said than done).


These represent the people who are simply comfortable in the status quo. They are not the change initiators and not the competitors and may just have a lot potential energy. Typically comforters need a tipping point to move. Once they move, they can become strong allies.


They represent folks who ask “Why?”. The why can come from a variety of motives. Either a genuine inability to see the vision, inaccurate articulation of view points from the initiators, difference in the vantage points with the initiator, or they play a role of comforters or competitors. The best way to work with the challengers is to understand the motives/intent and evolve with it.


First-movers are typically open minded, willing to take calculative risks, and able to see what is in them in a new way of looking at things. You would typically want a change juggernaut to start with them (although some could argue).


Willing are like “gumbys”. They will go with the flow. Forming a coalition of willing can be a great way to translate stagnated situations to move and at the same time it might not give a complete perspective of the truth since you may end up hearing unintended positive buzz.


These are folks who can take a change initiative and influence groups. The ability to influence groups varies based on a variety of aspects. Having a holistic view of your sum-total influencer reach will really help accelerate a change.


They are akin to what app developers are to Apple. They really thrive off what you provide them and come with all positivity to build and further the cause. All they need to see is motivation and opportunity. They can influence horizontal, downward, upward, and more important build new things off the change.  They innovate within a template of change. They are simply the most powerful form of any change and they need an effective platform to thrive.


Typically people who are focused subject matter experts. They are typically so smart at their given area that their empathy for “why something is this hard for the other person” typically comes in the way.


Positively & respectfully speaking, Knit Pickers are the ones who look at details and identify things that aren’t to be. They may be positive or negative and are endowed with an amazing gift for details.

Euphoria Generators

Intended or unintended the euphoria generators quickly form perceptions & start making stories based on hearsay and may not realize the impact of their behavior on change. Well, what a great place to propagate message?


In any change there are always going to be impacted individuals. While giving attention to “special-talent” might actually be considered partial, the matter of fact is that extra empathy towards them may go a long way to “keep them”. Recognize they are probably the first one to walk out.


Just about everyone is an enabler. Each one works in a different way to enable a change & goes through the notion differently. All of the above play a role in the change.


A leader brings about all the various personalities in a change to lead & evolve the change to what is right from an outcome point of view.

Please note that all of the above has been written with respect & grace to the various gifts people bring to the table. What is your take on various personalities in change? Do you have more to add? Please let us know.


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