Stakeholder Mapping Categories

Stakeholder Mapping Categories

My recent post, The Case for Stakeholder Mapping, generated a fair number of questions and comments. While I can’t respond individually to all of them, I thought it might be helpful to elaborate on the utility of mapping the three top-level categories of stakeholders in a mapping template.

  • Known Stakeholders
  • Adjacent Stakeholders
  • Future Stakeholders

The Three Types of Stakeholders in Stakeholder Mapping

1. Known Stakeholders

Known Stakeholders are people currently within your organization who play an important role.

During the facilitation of strategic planning for one organization, my client and I uncovered that the company’s universe of Known Stakeholders was extremely large. There were multiple top-level categories, and we actually paused the mapping process at the second level when the list began to approach an unmanageable size. It became apparent that structure and organization would need to be brought to their Known Stakeholders. The best way to accomplish this was through a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. It’s worth noting in this instance that while the Known Stakeholders we identified included the organization’s customers, the customers were only a small fraction of the relationships that needed to be managed. A CRM would help bring structure and accountability to how and who would manage those relationships.

In this scenario, mapping Known Stakeholders led directly to a tactic that became part of the deliverables within this organization’s strategic plan.

2. Adjacent Stakeholders

Adjacent Stakeholders are people and entities connected to — yet slightly removed from — your organization.

Adjacent Stakeholders are often overlooked by organizations — unless they’re mapped. Common examples of Adjacent Stakeholders are an organization’s employees’ families and significant others. Other examples might include unions or contract employees. There’s an old saying that “What gets measured matters.” When engaged in stakeholder mapping, there’s a corollary, “Those who are mapped matter.”

Adjacent Stakeholders have an impact on the here and now for your organization. If they’re not listed on the board, the natural inclination is to forget their role, the impact your company has upon them, and the (often invisible) influence they exert upon your organization. Depending upon your organization’s mission, vision, and values, overlooking Adjacent Stakeholders can be detrimental to getting to where you wish to go.

3. Future Stakeholders

Future Stakeholders (also called “Potential Stakeholders”) are people and entities with at least a medium probability of being associated with your organization in the future.

There’s a great deal that I could write about mapping Future Stakeholders. In nearly every strategic planning engagement I have facilitated, this portion of the exercise has led directly to both tactics and high-level strategies for the organization. Mapping this category tends to uncover acquisition targets, known and unknown competitors, potential employees, and new customers. This type of mapping has led organizations to develop new clarifying statements for their core values and make sizeable investments in both people and technologies to better position them for previously unidentified changes to their landscape. In short, Future Stakeholder mapping is a critical idea starter that opens up new possibilities. In one memorable real-world instance, it led to a complete revamping of a client’s organizational chart.

One Last Thought

One reader asked a very pointed question about how stakeholder mapping impacts core values. When working with organizations to develop and implement core values, I like to use something called “clarifying statements.” These are brief statements associated with individual core values that leaders can use when speaking with stakeholders about the organization’s core values. Without thoroughly mapping your stakeholders, your list of clarifying statements will be at best incomplete and at worst inapplicable. That’s because a good set of core values should be internally and externally relevant. Moreover, the folks in your organization need to understand the type of stakeholder they’re speaking with and how to apply your organization’s value(s) to them.

Have more questions about stakeholder mapping? Drop me a line and we’ll map it out.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.