Ranger4 DevOps Blog

Stakeholder Mapping Rebooted: The Power of Moods and Emotions in a DevOps Evolution

Posted by Philippa Hale on Wed, Apr 3, 2019 @ 13:04 PM

As part of your DevOps Evolution journey, when did you last do any stakeholder mapping?  

Who did you do it with?  How did you do it?  What did you do with the findings?

Stakeholder maps are valuable but under-utilised tools in any change initiative leader's toolkit. They help us to understand the social system our initiative is a part of, specifically who has what power, influence and vested interests, and who will support or derail our work.

What traditional stakeholder mapping doesn’t tell us is WHY people are likely to behave in these ways and WHAT TO DO about it. To get to this, we need to try to understand the underlying moods and emotions that are driving their thinking and decision making; to try to look at our initiative through the unavoidably subjective lense of their moods and emotions.  

If we can do this, we are more likely to be able to influence their thinking and decision making.  This is the ultimate aim of this tool, and of this article.  To help you to get people on board with your DevOps or any other change initiative, avoiding the classic pitfall of insufficient focus on the people. 

This stakeholder mapping tool (designed by Anna Bateson (2009) and adapted by Jean Gamester & Philippa Hale (2014) ) is one you can use with your team or with people from multiple teams; even with the people you currently see as ‘part of the problem’.  It provides a neutral structure and forum for the types of conversations that will surface these moods and emotions, in a safe, respectful way.  In fact, if you facilitate this stakeholder mapping exercise effectively, it can turn people into part of the solution!

There are six ‘behaviour profiles’ in the tool. These are not six personalities. We can all act in these 6 ways at different times, in different circumstances.  By placing people (by name or team) in these boxes, we create a snapshot in time of how people are thinking, feeling and acting right now in relation to our initiative.  It will show for example, whether we have a normal distribution of moods, emotions and behaviours given where we are in the life cycle of our initiative.  We will see where the key stakeholders are on the journey and where we need to focus our communication and engagement effort.



1. Unengaged
: At the start of an initiative it is usual for the majority of people involved in or affected by it to be neutral - no strong emotions, either positive or negative, as they are busy working on other things and don’t yet know much about it.  

However, you need to prioritise action here if you are well into the initiative and you have influential stakeholders still unengaged. 

Unengaged: typical moods & emotions

Best approach for engaging the unengaged

Low level concern linked to having limited information, low level interest due to limited conversations with others, indifference, often masked by stronger emotions linked to other initiatives and overall workload. Not motivated to accept invitations to early briefings and planning sessions. Intensely frustrating as we believe this would get them engaged!

Listen. Make early information available and engage consistently and confidently.  Use top-down encouragement where appropriate. Understand their overall environment and context. Be a reassuring port-in-a-storm, rather than triggering a heart-sink: ‘yet another change!’ Demonstrate authentic enthusiasm and valid, data-driven reasons for the initiative that will resonate with them, plus early evidence of small successes.


2. Spectators - will remain neutral towards the initiative, but have a higher level of knowledge and some understanding.  The easiest way to kill an initiative you are unconvinced about is to do nothing. This is where a spectator becomes a ‘saboteur’.  Someone who will benefit from this NOT succeeding, or believing this is the case.  Some senior leaders and team members don’t realise the impact of doing nothing. Others know it only too well!

Spectator: typical moods & emotions

Best approach for engaging spectators

Disconnected, uninspired, irritated, concerned, active or passive disengagement, possibly some interest based on rational understanding of potential outcomes, but may be overwhelmed or distracted by other priorities. There may be good reasons for taking this position, including assumptions and experiences from to past initiatives contributing to their reaction to your initiative.

Listen. As for Unengaged above, but focus more on increasing emotional engagement, through inclusion in activities with Advocates and Enthusiasts.  Their energy will be contagious.  Focus on those with the most power and influence on the initiative.  It is critical that you assume a positive intent until proven otherwise, manage your frustrations, ask questions, think about what assumptions YOU may be making about their intentions and remain respectful. In that way you could convert a Spectator to becoming an Advocate.


3. Cynics

Cynics: typical moods & emotions

Best approach for engaging cynics

Low rational understanding, low emotional engagement, probably change weary, suspicious, fearful, resentful, defensive, helpless, disempowered, masking those strong emotions by being dismissive, shutting out new information, refusing to get enthusiastic because they’ve been burned before. Cynicism is a classic individual and group survival tactic in organisations, and unfortunately a common and learned behaviour.

Listen.  Yes, they are adults and need to take responsibility for their actions BUT if this organisation - or past employers - have served them poorly in the past, some compassion and pragmatism is needed from you.  Role model a firm but supportive leadership approach. Share information, share enthusiasm, ask questions to surface concerns, involve in group experiential learning and discovery activities, DON’T be drawn into using up too much time and resources accommodating those who won't shift. You will never reach everyone.


4. Critics

Critics: typical moods & emotions

Best approach for engaging critics

People in all 6 areas of this stakeholder map can be critical of an initiative.  People currently in the Critics box have good knowledge of the initiative but are afraid, angry, frustrated and/or change weary. If they believe something they care about is at risk, they will defend this. They may simply have a different view of the world, or not (yet) have seen any opportunities or benefits. They may be right!  There are always people who simply won’t benefit from a change, however it is presented. There will always be a small % of people who never get on board, but will eventually have no choice but to comply.

Rather than being defensive or frustrated, treat the criticism as useful information, even if the tone used is less that helpful!  They may be seeing issues you have missed. A converted Critic is a powerful Advocate, especially if that person is known across the organisation as being difficult to engage. If someone senior and influential is acting as Critic, engage with them.  Make sure they have the facts, articulated in language that is meaningful to them, for example, a commercial rather than technical focus.  Then work out which other stakeholders could influence them: a peer or someone they know and respect in their network, who would be willing to help.


5. Enthusiasts

Enthusiasts: typical moods & emotions

Best approach for engaging enthusiasts

Energetic, enthusiastic, driven, curious, inspired, generous about the initiative; However they may not have all the facts and may share incorrect information, leading to rumours, misunderstandings or wasted time and effort.  May be seen by some as trusting too quickly, particularly by people who prefer to have more hard, accurate information before engaging.

Involve and include them to keep the enthusiasm up and get things moving.. These people can swing over to being critical or disengaged if they don’t see action, or get feedback on their contribution.  They understand that initiatives are often unstructured and chaotic at the start and can cope with this, which is helpful. Give them slides, videos … to help them support the project with the right messages.


6. Advocates (Champions/Ambassadors - not ‘judges’) -

Advocates: typical moods & emotions

Best approach for engaging advocates

High level of understanding AND high emotional engagement.  Typical emotions include proud to be a part of the initiative, confident, open, driven. Likely to be the people with the most commitment and enthusiasm for the initiative, and the best understanding.  They believe in initiative themselves and give others confidence, through their grounded knowledge and positive approach. They are not always the most senior people in the organisation - though having senior Advocates is essential. They are strong influencers across a wide network within the organisation.



Use their knowledge and enthusiasm and keep them involved. Don't make the mistake of focusing all your communication efforts on those who aren't on board.  Make sure they stay as Advocates and don’t lose interest.  These will be the people who influence others that you can’t reach, in the many meetings, chats and water cooler conversations that ripple out across the organisation.  They will provide information, correct misunderstandings and encourage engagement.  You need one at least one Advocate in each of the communities or teams involved in or affected by your initiative.

Give them clear briefs and resources/materials and then let them be creative as to how to best act in this Advocate role.  Link them up with other Advocates to create a community of practice and support, using Chats or other forums.


Mapping stakeholder emotions and moods - What's the return on investment? (ROI)

Analysing your stakeholder emotions and moods, and digging a little deeper to understand where these may come from, is key to the success of any initiative. It can help us to identify issues before they happen and remove blocks, up and down the hierarchy and across teams.

Connecting with stakeholders in this way and facilitating, mentoring and supporting - not just one-way communicating - does require time and effort, but incredibly rewarding for all. It will also earn you the reputation of safe pair of hands for future initiative leader roles.

If you would like to see some examples of this stakeholder mapping tool in action, join us for the Apollo 13 business simulation webinar on 11th April, or sign up for the Apollo 13 simulation open session on 21st May, where you will experience it at first hand and learn how to use it.