The Science behind Effective Stakeholder Management

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Manoj Patel

One of the clients I’ve been coaching recently asked me: "How do you seem to know how certain people will behave and react to certain things before they even happen?" "There is no magic here, we aren’t talking about the so called ‘soft skills’," I replied. This is a science, rather than an art form, as some people seem to think. It’s essentially about being able to read people effectively and then being able to influence them based on their personality type and personal drivers. Here we’ll take a look at the first part in terms of effective stakeholder management.


Effectively managing stakeholders is one of the most skilled and difficult parts of any improvement project and this subject is absolutely massive. Despite the topic only being covered in our Master Black Belt Course, I think it is so important, I decided to pull out some of the key aspects, hints and tips that I think you can put to use straight away.

Almost always, the degree that you master this skill is the defining factor in whether any project is a success or a failure and here is the first useful thing to watch out for in your stakeholders – the different behavioral modes:

There are two types of Behavioral Mode:

Default – This is the one you may have to look hard to see. The Default Mode contains all deep-seated beliefs and prejudices, goals and drivers of the person and basic intentions, be they good or evil. The way to assess and spot the Default Behavioral Mode, or DBM of a person, is not by listening to what they say but by analysis of how they say it and the behavior that they exhibit. Once you know what you’re looking for, you will be able to spot a person’s DBM, which is the key to knowing exactly how to deal with them

Assumed – This is the mode that the person wants you to believe is their ‘Default’ mode and quite often hides the intentions, beliefs and goals that they don’t want you to see. The old saying "Take people as you find them", isn’t always the best to follow. Of course, some people are completely open and only ever display their default mode but you need to be able to know the difference. The Assumed Behavioral Mode, or ABM tends to be used by people adjusting to their ‘audience’ or prior to trust being firmly established. (This is the one shown to you by ‘two-faced’ people prior to stabbing you in the back!)

Always remember, the eyes ARE the window to the soul.

This initial question got me thinking about the skills that aren’t part of the standard Lean Six Sigma toolbox but that every consultant needs to know and that’s why I’ll be running a series of classroom-based masterclasses for my current clients around Stakeholder Analysis and Management, Scoping, Coaching as a Consultant & Consultancy skills and behaviors to ensure they are fit and capable to continue the good work once I move on to another client.