Exam technique advice

Stakeholder Mapping and Managing Change | AQA Q21, Paper 1 2018

  • Levels: A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA

Here is a suggested response to the 25-mark question on stakeholder mapping and managing change in the AQA A-Level Business Paper 1 in 2018.

Managers of public limited companies (PLCs) are likely to have a wide range of stakeholders, each with different levels of stakeholder interest and power. In situations where change needs to be managed more effectively, the use of stakeholder mapping is likely to be particularly helpful in focusing managers on the most important stakeholders and getting them involved and supporting the change needed.

Stakeholder mapping tasks managers with making a judgement about which stakeholders to focus their attention on. Stakeholders with a combination of high interest in the business and high power are the most likely to be directly affected by major change, so it makes sense for managers to focus on these stakeholders when managing change. For example, in a situation where the change requires significant cost-savings through redundancies, employees are likely to have both high interest in the change (because they are directly affected by it) as well as high power if it is a PLC where many employees are also shareholders. Of course, you might expect employees to be kept informed in any case, however stakeholder mapping would justify managers working closely with employees in this situation. Consider another situation where the use of stakeholder mapping would be really useful to managers when managing change. If the change results from external factors, such as significant developments in legislation and regulations, then it makes sense for managers to engage closely with stakeholders who can help the business understand and respond to the new laws or regulations – such as government departments and industry bodies. The challenges faced by PLCs in responding to Brexit are a great example of this recently. These stakeholders might not necessarily have the highest power or interest in the business, however they will be vital in helping the business manage the changes that are needed.

Of course, there is no guarantee that simply using stakeholder mapping will help a PLC manage change more effectively. Stakeholder mapping is an approach or model, not a solution to making change happen. It is one thing to identify a stakeholder group that is important, but managers still need to actually communicate effectively with the group. In complex businesses like PLCs there are also likely to be conflicts between stakeholder groups that are hard to resolve, and managers will need to make choices about who to try to bring on board and which stakeholders can remain opposed to the change without preventing the change from happening. For a PLC, shareholders are likely to be the stakeholders with highest interest and power (since managers are ultimately responsible to them). It might be that the change is acceptable to shareholders but damaging to another stakeholder group with high interest (e.g. the local community where a business operation needs to be closed). In this situation, stakeholder mapping doesn’t really provide the solution except emphasise the need to communication with ALL stakeholders to explain what is happening.

As argued above, to a great extent, stakeholder mapping is a really useful tool to help managers of PLCs manage change effectively. All change impacts stakeholders, and this is particularly the case for significant change in complex businesses like PLCs which have a wide range of stakeholders. The main benefit of managers using stakeholder mapping is that it enables them to focus their attention on the most important stakeholders relevant to the specific changes being made. Shareholders are always likely to be important, but depending on the change, other stakeholders may become the focus in order inform decision-making and get support. It is important to recognise that stakeholder mapping is no guarantee that the change can be managed well – it may be that managers don’t perform the mapping effectively or that they are unable to handle the inevitable stakeholder conflicts. However, stakeholder mapping has surely got to be a useful tool for any manager leading change in a big business like a PLC!

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