Increase your influence and impact through "change intelligent" stakeholder engagement

Barbara A. Trautlein, PhD

Principal, Change Catalysts, LLC

Through building Change Intelligence©, project, program, and portfolio managers increase their influence and impact to more effectively engage stakeholders and lead projects. Career progress for project, program, and portfolio managers hinges on the ability to lead successful and sustainable change. To lead change, project, program, and portfolio managers need to influence a wide variety of stakeholders. Starting with A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fourth Edition's “power/interest” grid, we discuss how to augment that simple yet powerful tool with “Change Intelligent© (CQ©)” tactics. We will learn to leverage the CQ© System for Developing Change Intelligence© to do so. Readers will explore their own CQ©—namely, the awareness of one's own change leader style, and the ability to adapt one's style to be optimally effective across people and situations—and explore why it is a pivotal capability for project, program, and portfolio managers today. Armed with these insights, we will move from “self” to “stakeholders,” and identify savvy strategies for building our influence and impact as project, program, and portfolio managers, to overcome resistance and get results. Throughout the paper, immediately applicable insights are shared to enhance leadership agility and change leadership capacity.


You've heard of “IQ”—raw “intellectual” intelligence. You've heard of “EQ”—emotional intelligence. Yet what about “CQ©”—Change Intelligence©? Change is the only constant. Reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, job transitions—the modern workplace is replete with never-ending, dizzying changes. Yet so many changes fail to achieve their lofty goals. According to various estimates, as many as 70% or more of change efforts fall short of expectations. With so much experience with change, what have we learned?

The CQ© System for Developing Change Intelligent© Leaders and Organizations (Trautlein, 2013) is based on decades of partnering with clients ranging from steel mills to sales teams, refineries to retail outlets, and healthcare to high tech to lead organizational, team, and personal transformations; years of conducting global research on managing change spanning from America to Australia, Canada to the Congo, and Italy to India; and study into the psychology and neuroscience of change.

What is CQ© (Change Intelligence©)?

CQ© (Change Intelligence©) is the awareness of one's own change leader style, and the ability to adapt one's style to be optimally effective in leading change across a variety of people and situations.

Change Intelligence© describes your heartset, mindset, and skillset as a change leader. We each have our own unique change leadership style. Our style is comprised of our tendencies to lead with our heart versus our head versus our hands. Powerful change leaders “start with the heart,” “engage the brain,” and “help the hands” move in positive new directions (see Exhibit 1).


Exhibit 1. Heart, head, and hand model: A table describing the three styles of leading change.

Some change leaders have a dominant tendency, and others focus equally on two or even all three components. The most powerful change leaders have all three tools in their toolbag, skill in using the tools, and the savvy to deploy the right tools in the right situation. That's CQ©! By building Change Intelligence©, change leaders are able to overcome what looks like resistance but is really confusion over the goal (no “head”), lack of connection to the goal (no “heart”), or lack of tactics and training to partner together to work toward the goal (no “hands”).

Stakeholder Analysis - Basic

To get grounded on the PMI approach to stakeholder analysis, you are invited to review PMBOK® Guide section 10.1.2: Identify Stakeholders: Tools and Techniques (p. 248–250). The PMBOK® Guide states:

“Stakeholder analysis is a technique of systematically gathering and analyzing quantitative and qualitative information to determine whose interests should be taken into account throughout the project. It identifies the interests, expectations, and influence of the stakeholders and relates them to the purpose of the project. It also helps identify stakeholder relationships that can be leveraged to build coalitions and potential partnerships to enhance the project's chance of success.” (p. 248)

The PMBOK® Guide advises project, program, and portfolio managers to generate a grid to classify stakeholders. As a foundational tool for this paper, we will begin with the power/interest grid as offered in the PMBOK® Guide, “grouping the stakeholders based on their level of authority (‘power’) and their level of concern (‘interest’) regarding the project outcomes” (see Exhibit 2, from p. 249):


Exhibit 2. The power/interest grid depicted in the PMBOK® Guide.

Stakeholder Analysis – An Added Dimension

Hillson and Simon (2007) and later Maltzman (2009) have enhanced our ability to effectively engage stakeholders by offering an additional dimension for consideration, namely, stakeholder “attitude,” which may also be high or low, adding a z-axis to our grid, evolving it into a “power/interest/attitude grid” (see Exhibit 3).


Exhibit 3. A graphic of the Hillson/Simon power/interest/attitude grid adapted by Maltzman.

The beauty of this added dimension is that “attitude” is something that a project, program, or portfolio manager can influence, perhaps more directly than stakeholders’ “power” (which is typically pre-determined by hierarchy or role) or “interest” (which may be impacted by shifts in “attitude” but may also be driven by factors beyond the project scope, such as other accountabilities or conflicting priorities).

In this example, Maltzman (2009) analyzes a “sleeping giant” stakeholder, his term for the combination of positive attitude, high power, and low interest. Clearly, such stakeholders can have a major positive impact on project success—if only they can be encouraged to become more actively involved! His analysis suggests several action items, including “make sure they know ‘what's in it for them’” and “awaken their interest and get their input and support.”

Change Intelligent© Stakeholder Engagement

Bringing to bear learnings from Change Intelligence© (CQ©), we are presented with a wide variety of strategies and tactics to engage stakeholders in various placements in the grid. Since they present the most challenges as well as the most opportunities, and since the “attitude” dimension is the one that can most clearly be influenced by project, program, and portfolio managers, let us study these three stakeholder types:

  • The saboteur – high power, high interest, negative attitude
  • The timebomb – high power, low interest, negative attitude
  • The irritant – low power, high interest, negative attitude

The saboteur

Saboteurs are opposed to the project and overtly or covertly actively conspire to derail its progress. The advice in the PMBOK® Guide power/interest grid would be to “manage closely.” But how? This is where a knowledge of stakeholder attitude (in this case, negative), as well as CQ© approaches, can significantly aid a project, program, or portfolio manager.

An example of a saboteur would be Peter, the COO of a hospital. Laura, a project manager, was in charge of implementing a learning center, basically an internal university, for the healthcare system. Peter was opposed to the initiative. Given his role, he had high power. Given the fact that he wanted to divert funds designated for the learning center to a performance management system—a project he had high interest in and commitment to—he displayed high interest in the project.

After identifying Peter's placement on the power/interest/attitude grid, Laura set out to identify the root cause of Peter's negative attitude toward the learning center. She interviewed him and several of his staff members, and attended several of their meetings. She determined that Peter was concerned about the financial state of the hospital. He attributed a portion of its declining earnings to staff not being held accountable for core aspects of their jobs, particularly around fiscal responsibility and cost control. He believed investing in a performance management system would enable leaders at all levels to focus staff on critical metrics, and reward or sanction them for their contributions to bottom-line results.

In contrast, his opinion of the learning center was that it was a “pie-in-the-sky pipedream.” If it would yield any benefits, in his mind, those would be years into the future, and the hospital needed a financial turnaround immediately. Moreover, it became clear to Laura that Peter had a history of political conflict with the learning center's sponsor, the SVP of HR. Her project was just one in a long line of wranglings between the two senior leaders.

Incorporating CQ©, here is a sampling of action steps Laura deployed to engage Peter, this challenging saboteur stakeholder:

  • Inspire the “head”—focusing on purpose—vision and strategy—and the stakeholder's goals: Demonstrate that the learning center would be a way to help embed the performance management system; training on the new process could be part of the core curriculum
  • Help the “hands”—focusing on process—tactics and tools: Provide data from other healthcare systems showing how a learning center approach yielded bottom-line benefits and helped improve financial results within a realistic timeframe, and conduct analyses showing how both initiatives could be pursued in a budget-conscious manner
  • Engage the “heart”—focusing on people—relationships and trust: Conduct a team-building session using the Change Intelligence/CQ Assessment©, which demonstrated that Peter and the HR SVP had fundamentally different styles of leading change, with the former tending to focus on the bottom-line business results and the latter on the people affected by the business, which led to greater understanding of each other and fewer negative judgments and assumptions of intent, paving the way toward new possibilities for positive partnership

While Peter never became a staunch advocate of the learning center, Laura succeeded in converting him from a saboteur to a more neutral stakeholder. Over time his attitude became more positive, especially after implementation, when he saw how the processes in place in the learning center facilitated adoption of the performance management system—in other words, that the two projects were in fact mutually supportive, a win-win.

The timebomb

This stakeholder's combination of high power and low interest leads the PMBOK® Guide's power/interest grid to suggest that project, program, and portfolio managers should strive to “keep them satisfied.” However, noting that timebombs are also characterized by a “negative attitude” may make this difficult, particularly at certain critical or high visibility points in the project. A more proactive approach would be to seek to understand their objections, and then improve their attitude.

As the plant manager for a large manufacturing facility, the headquarters of a global firm based in the Midwest of the United States, Jake was a key stakeholder in a lean manufacturing project led by Alison, a program manager. As a member of the program's steering committee, he frankly did not pay much attention to the project during the pilot phase, which was conducted in one of the company's South American plants. However, after the pilot, his plant was next to go through the lean process, and the timebomb that was Jake exploded.

Alison considered what she might have done before Jake exploded to achieve a more positive outcome. As part of a lessons-learned debrief with her team, utilizing a CQ©-based analysis, here is a sampling of the missed opportunities she identified:

  • Inspire the “head”—focusing on purpose—vision and strategy—and the stakeholder's goals: Alison and her team did not explore the significant differences between the South American facility and Jake's U.S. plant. The pilot plant had a history of compliance with managerial directives, so had acted in accordance with the lean processes with little resistance. However, the U.S. facility had a strong legacy of self-managed teams at the factory-floor level and deep participation in designing new methodologies. The cookie-cutter, top-down approach attempted by Alison and her team was in stark contrast to the management strategy of Jake's plant. Had she identified this difference in advance, her team could have worked with the U.S. plant's teams to achieve the lean vision in a way that was supportive of the plant's “team-based strategy.”
  • Help the “hands”—focusing on process—tactics and tools: Another key difference in the two plants was several of their operational and human resource processes. How people shared information, made decisions, tracked performance, and received compensation were all vastly different. Even if people at the U.S. plant wanted to embrace the lean approach, the fact that there were fundamental process barriers prevented them from doing so.
  • Engage the “heart”—focusing on people—relationships and trust: When people at the U.S. plant heard “lean,” they interpreted that as “downsizing.” There was fear and confusion just based on the terminology—and past history of layoffs—that Alison and her team were insensitive to but that Jake was not. When Jake's “key stakeholders” in his plant balked, he did as well.

Alison and her team were able to regroup, rebuild the damaged relationship with Jake and his leadership team, and launch the lean program at the U.S. facility. The lessons she learned were useful in preparing for other lean projects in the company's remaining plants around the world. Taking the time to conduct a stakeholder analysis reminded the team to collect data about critical concerns that may prevent people with seemingly “high power but low interest” from “keeping satisfied” over the course of the project, and help the project team to proactively identify opportunities to improve attitudes and avoid landmines.

The irritant

Irritants have low power and high interest, so the PMBOK® Guide advises project, program, and portfolio managers to “keep them informed.” However, when combined with a negative attitude, they could not only irritate the project, program, or portfolio manager but also infect other stakeholders with their pessimism. As Maltzman (2009) advises, project, program, and portfolio managers might consider how to contain and counter their negative attitudes.

Susan was a highly vocal opinion leader in the IT department of a national retailer based in the United States. She had a lot of pride in a customer relationship management (CRM) system she helped implement several years before, which was being supplanted by a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Susan had two decades of experience with the company and felt slighted when a more junior project manager, Rhonda, was selected to lead the ERP implementation.

Although Susan was not on the ERP team, she was very active in making her perceptions of problems with the new system known to the team members. During IT department meetings as well as in one-on-one conversations with team members, Susan pointed out how the new system was inferior to “her” CRM system and what she saw as flaws in how Rhonda was rolling out the project.

Being a Change Intelligent© leader, Rhonda knew that often when we change our approach to a stakeholder, it can be amazing how they change, too. Therefore, she altered her approach. Here are a few action steps she took:

  • Inspire the “head”—focusing on purpose—vision and strategy—and the stakeholder's goals: Part of the root cause of Susan's attitude was that she did, in fact, have a lot of pride around her work and her contribution to the company. In explaining the ERP system, both to Susan and as part of her messaging more broadly, Rhonda took care to portray it as an “evolution” of the CRM system—a logical next step to make the company even more successful, building on the excellent CRM system, while at the same time leveraging leading-edge tools not available before that had resulted in proven benefits for competitors.
  • Help the “hands”—focusing on process—tactics and tools: Rhonda invited Susan to play a formal role in the project. She asked her to work with specific project team members to tutor them on the intricacies of the CRM system, so they could make the transition as smooth as possible, incorporating necessary functionality in a manner that would be as seamless as possible for the end users—whom Susan had gotten to know intimately during her decades of IT installations and upgrades.
  • Engage the “heart”—focusing on people—relationships and trust: Courageously, Rhonda invited Susan to lunch and had a “heart-to-heart” talk with her about the selection of the project manager role. She acknowledged Susan's expertise and experience—and asked her to be her mentor! Susan was flabbergasted—and flattered. Rhonda received invaluable guidance. Susan got a new image of herself, and a vision of a new and compelling way she could leave a legacy.

Taken together, these case studies offer vistas into how Change Intelligent© project, program, and portfolio managers can leverage specific strategies and tactics to influence stakeholder attitudes toward project purpose, process, and people. Project, program, and portfolio managers can and should help stakeholders see the “what and why” (purpose—“head” questions), the “how” (process—“hands” questions), and the “who” (people—“heart” questions) to powerfully engage for change.

Moreover, each case study demonstrates how savvy project, program, and portfolio managers reframe resistance from enemy to ally, overcome resistance in their projects’ stakeholders, and facilitate successful and sustainable change.

A winning next step would be to incorporate the action steps identified by your Change Intelligent© stakeholder analysis into your stakeholder register, as described in the PMBOK® Guide (p. 250), to intentionally and powerfully steer the stakeholder engagement efforts throughout your project's lifecycle.

Concluding Comments on Change Intelligent© Leadership Agility and Stakeholder Engagement Effectiveness

Project, program, and portfolio managers enhance their individual influence and collective impact when they learn how to shift their influence strategy to more meaningfully connect with a wide variety of stakeholders, who differ on their levels of power, interest, and attitude. We all know the golden rule: “Do unto others as YOU would have them do unto you.” To optimally partner with others through change, follow the platinum rule: “Do unto others as THEY would have you do unto them.”

So many leaders keep doing things the same way, expecting a different result—the definition of insanity. They expect their people to change but not themselves, or at least not their own change leadership style. Yet change starts with us, and to lead change, we need all three tools in our toolbag: to engage the brain, inspire the heart, and help the hands to get people moving in positive, new directions. That's CQ©!

By adding the “missing ingredient” to our approach to leading change, we are able to overcome what looks like resistance but is often really confusion over the goal, lack of connection to the goal, or lack of training and tools to partner together to work toward the goal.

Regardless of where an individual may fall on the grid, here are some additional tips and tools to jumpstart developing your CQ©, for optimal influence and impact across a wide variety of stakeholders:

Head/mindset: People need to understand the change that is needed—the business case, the bottom-line metrics—the “what.” If they don't, chaos and confusion will result. Ask yourself:

img Have I created and communicated a compelling vision, business case, and plan for change?

img Have I painted the picture so others can dream the dream?

Hands/skillset: People need to know how to act consistently with the change, to have the skills and knowledge to do the right thing—the “how.” If they don't, what may appear as resistance may in fact be fear and frustration. Ask yourself:

img Do people know what to do? Have I made the parts they are to play and expectations for deliverables clear?

img Have I provided the training and other developmental experiences people need to build new competencies? Have I coached people to feel confident and empowered?

img Have I provided the resources and removed the barriers standing in their way to make them successful?

Heart/heartset: People need to believe in the change—the sense of urgency, the emotional commitment—the “why.” If they don't, the best result will be passionless compliance and the worst demotivated resignation. Ask yourself:

img Have I engaged people in the change beyond the intellectual level—made the personal, emotional appeal?

img Am I continually listening, giving and receiving honest feedback, and keeping a finger on the pulse of the human side of the transition?

In addition to asking these questions of ourselves, these are the kinds of conversations we can facilitate with leaders at all levels to their build their Change Intelligence©, overcome resistance, and make change stick.

The most effective change leaders—project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers—are aware of their change leadership style, to accept their strengths and developmental areas, and to get into action to build CQ© to catalyze powerful change in their careers, teams, and organizations. As you build your mindset, heartset, and skillset, you will savvier and more adept at selecting the right tools for the right situation, bolstering your effectiveness as a change leader.

Hillson, D., & Simon, P. (2007). Practical project risk management: The ATOM methodology. Vienna, VA: Management Concepts, Inc.

Maltzman, R. (2009). Stakeholder engagement. Unpublished working paper, used with permission.

Project Management Institute. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide) – Fourth edition. Newton Square, PA: Author.

Trautlein, B. A. (2013). Change Intelligence©: Use the power of CQ© to lead change that sticks. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group.

©2015, Barbara A. Trautlein
Originally Published as part of 2015 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Orlando, Florida, USA



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