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Stakeholders are the people that are vested in the outcome of something. They are not necessarily people who actually do the process, but they do have some skin in the game.

Stakeholders that are indirectly affected by a process frequently have a negative effect from the change. In many cases, they will be asked to bear some of the costs of a new method despite getting none, or very little, of the benefit.

For example, switching from a print copy of a product manual to an electronic version may directly affect the processes of the marketing and production teams, but it will likely increase the call volume for technical support as well.

Stakeholders include:

  • The team members doing the process
  • The leadership team
  • Supporting teams (materials, facilities/maintenance, tooling, etc.)
  • Upstream teams / internal customers
  • Downstream teams / external customers
  • Adjacent teams (teams on the next assembly line)
  • Customers (includes people in a variety of roles—user, purchaser, decision maker, etc.)
  • Sales and marketing teams
  • Vendors
  • Shareholders
  • Financers / creditors

Continuous Improvement Enterprise Development Pack

Stakeholders are sometimes tough to identify. Company processes are like a web. A process in one area interacts with another process, which touches another process. When changes are made, there is a ripple effect that has an impact in a lot of places.

Administrative processes tend to have more stakeholders than a manufacturing process might, especially when customer interactions are involved. In a manufacturing setting, boundaries are generally clearly defined. If you make a change within a cell, the stakeholders are limited—the operators, the material handler, the manufacturing engineering team, and possibly design. It is unlikely to have a broad impact throughout the company on, for example, A/R, or customer service, or marketing.

When a change is made in an administrative process, though, the waves radiate much more strongly. Perhaps the accounting team puts a new collections process in place. It might generate more calls to customer service, affect forecasts for marketing (if the process is aggressive), require communication by the sales team, and possibly back up manufacturing if orders are delayed while trying to clear up payment problems. Figuring out which stakeholders will be affected is quite a bit more challenging when customers are directly involved in the mix.

Stakeholders should have a some say in changes, but be cautious about letting them veto a decision. Stakeholders tend to pay the price for changes, but reap little benefit. Let’s say that you figure out a way to save 1000 work hours per year in your area, but it will cost another group 200 extra hours in their process. Sounds like a good deal for the company, but a bad one for the other team. If you are going to drive work up in another area, make sure that the project addresses that added cost. Far too many changes do nothing to manage the additional impact on the stakeholder.

As a result, stakeholders tend to be a fairly negative and disjointed bunch. They see projects as an enemy that needs to be contained, rather than as the positive thing that it is.

  1. Communicate often and early. Prior to a kaizen project, place a poster board in the work area with a space to write down stakeholders.
  2. Include more people than you think you need in the communication. Let them decide not to participate.
  3. Be clear about goals and boundaries.
  4. Include your champion in initial discussions. They tend to have more influence, so their words carry more weight in getting stakeholders on board.
  5. Match new resources with new workload. If work is added to a stakeholder, they need to get resources, even if it is a commitment for a future improvement project.
  6. Solicit input only if you plan on using it. Few things are more disheartening to team members realizing that they never really had a fair chance to sway an opinion.


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