A stakeholder map is a great way to avoid and solve problems.

You’ll remember that the third principle of service-design thinking is to make the process co-creative and to consider input from all stakeholders. But sometimes this is easier said than done.

A stakeholder map, the first tool in the toolbox, can obviate confusion.

A stakeholder map provides a visual representation of every stakeholder that is involved with your service. It shows every manager, marketer, government agent and employee.

You can generate this map by making a thorough list that includes every possible stakeholder along with a notation of what that stakeholder’s relationships is to the service and to all other stakeholders.

You can then draw lines and use symbols to illustrate those connections, making a visual guide that allows you to fully grasp the complexity of your service.

The map can also use circles of influence, centered around a bull’s-eye. The closer a stakeholder is to the bull’s-eye, the more influence the stakeholder has.

A stakeholder map was of great help when the service-design company DesignThinkers was working with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. Specifically, they were working with the NL Agency, a troubled department that was in charge of a policy aimed at building better relations between the government and international business.

DesignThinkers was hired to help the NL Agency reach their goals, and they used a stakeholder map to help figure out why the agency was running into problems. The map was a great asset. It allowed the team to consider the complex relationships between all the businesses and government agents and how they affected the work.

The map made it clear why the agency was mired in conflict and confusion: the managers were spending too much time dealing with confused staff that were trying to follow agency orders as well as those from the influential outside forces.

This allowed the NL Agency to refocus on what was truly important: the customers, businesses and educational institutions that the agency was designed to help.

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