Value convergence is the point where the values or priorities of each individual on your stakeholder map converge with one or more of the outcomes on your stakeholder map. To display your map, you will need a large sheet of paper that is easiest to use if you fasten it to a wall. As shown in Figure 3.1, down the left side of the paper, write outcomes at the top. Under that, write the outcomes for your agency. For LCCS, that list would include: protection, permanence, well being, long term success, prevention, financial responsibility, and public accountability.
Next, across the top of the paper, (after outcomes) write: Political Stakeholders, Administrative Stakeholders, Mandated Stakeholders, CSN Stakeholders, and Public Stakeholders. Now, draw a heavy vertical line to the right of the outcome list and a heavy horizontal line under the stakeholder categories. Next, draw lighter vertical and horizontal lines to show the divisions between the columns and rows in the map. The resulting boxes are where you will map the stakeholders. Since you will be writing information in the boxes, they need to be as big as possible.
Using the LCCS outcomes, there would be seven boxes going down the page and five stakeholder categories going across the page. (As an alternative to a large chart, you may also use a notebook, with one page for each of the thirty-five boxes on the chart.) Each box is the intersection or “value convergence” of one outcome and one stakeholder category. For example, the upper left box is the value convergence of protection and political stakeholders. The “value” is protection and the convergence is with political stakeholders. The box in the lower right corner is the value convergence of public accountability and public stakeholders. The “value” is public accountability and the convergence is with public stakeholders.
The level of value convergence within each of the thirty-five boxes is not the same for each box. For example, the value convergence with protection and political stakeholders is high. Political stakeholders value protection (child safety) very highly, thus, the level of value convergence is high. Alternatively, the value convergence with mandated stakeholders and financial responsibility is likely low. They would only be interested in agency fiscal performance if there were serious financial problems that caused problems with protection and other outcomes. They value agency financial responsibility low so the value convergence is low. The value convergence for different stakeholder categories varies, depending on the outcome and how strongly the people in the category value the outcome. Generally, all stakeholders value each of the outcomes but value some more than others. Some outcomes are more immediately important to them than others.
On your stakeholder map, rate the value convergence high, medium, or low for each box on the map. Write the value convergence level in the upper left corner of each box on your map. Since you likely do not have time or resources to pursue strategic communication with everyone, every time, in relation to every issue, it is important to prioritize. Your highest effort needs to focus where there is high value convergence. That is where your efforts will make the most difference.
The next step may be somewhat counter-intuitive. First, look closely at your stakeholder list. Focus on the individuals whom you gave a “1,” indicating that you can appropriately pick up the phone and talk with them about a concern or issue. Each individual is in only one category so his or her name goes in only one column on your map. For example, start with the people who have a “1” and who are in the political stakeholder category. Now write the name of the first person in the category in each of the boxes in the column where you have written “high” in the upper left corner. (That persons name goes in each box rated high.) Continue this process until you have included all of the people with “1” and who are in the political stakeholder category. (Leave space below each name for additional information.) When you have included all of those people on your map, do the same for those individuals who have a “1” and who are in the administrative stakeholder category. Remember to only include names where you have rated value convergence for a box high. Finish this step by adding the people with a “1” in the remaining columns.
To complete this part of the mapping, focus on the map. It now has names in most, if not all, of the boxes where value convergence is high. For each name in each box, rate the capacity of the individual to influence the specific outcome for better or worse. For example, suppose you wrote Joe Smith’s name in the box where mandated stakeholders converge with protection. What is Mr. Smith’s capacity to influence “protection” outcomes for the agency? Rate it high, medium, or low. For instance, if Mr. Smith is your lead juvenile judge, a rating of “high” would likely be in order. Beside each name on your map, put an “h” for high influence, an “m” for medium influence, and “l” for low influence. When you have finished, underline any name on the map where you have put an “h” beside the name. One person may have his or her name underlined on the map more than once.
Now, keep in mind that you are actively developing direct, face-to-face relationships with those individual stakeholders with whom you have not cultivated that type of relationship. You gave them a “2” above. Add them to the map as you achieve the desired, direct, face-to-face relationship and then rate their influence, underlining the name if their capacity to influence the particular outcome is high.
Finally, focus on those people on your stakeholder list to whom you have given a “3,” indicating that you do not have a direct relationship and that a direct relationship is unlikely and perhaps inappropriate. For each person who has a “3,” note which shareholder category he belongs to. Does the individual have a high capacity to influence any of the outcomes where value convergence is high? Look at the boxes in the column where you have written “high” in the upper left corner. Does the individual have a high capacity to influence that outcome for the agency? If so, write the name in the box and draw a wavy line under the name.
For each box on your map, look at the people whose names are underlined. For each person, ask this question. Can this person contact anyone on a direct, face-to-face basis whose name has a wavy line under it? If so, that represents potential access to that person. You can directly contact person “A” and he can, in turn, directly contact person “B.” That is an indirect connection. Write person “A’s” name in parentheses immediately under person B’s name. That is one connection or access route to that individual. On your map, you may have more than one name in parentheses under some names.
Now make a list of the organizations and associations to which you or the agency belong. Through these affiliations, you can have indirect access to people whom you cannot contact directly or to whom you do not have regular access. Look at all of the names on your map, including those whose names are underlined and those who have wavy lines under their names. Under the names, write the name of each organization or association that has or can have direct contact with that individual. Put the organization or association name in brackets. That is a connection or access route to the person.
This step is critical. Focus on each name in parentheses or brackets on your map and consider the box where their name is. Does that person or organization have any vested interest in or ability to influence the outcome represented by the box, the outcome in the same row as the box? If not, draw a line through that name. You may be able to persuade someone to do you a favor and give you indirect access to someone else but the interpersonal cost over time is just too high. As tempting as it may be, resist the temptation. Do not inappropriately use people you know and who trust you. For those people who have wavy lines under their names and with whom you do not have an access route, your challenge is to develop or cultivate one. Never shortcut this process.
You are finished with this part of developing your agency’s stakeholder map. You may be surprised to see how many people you now need to actively include in your strategic communication plan. It would not be unusual for even small agencies to have several hundred names on their map. Everyone on the map is important and none can be ignored or overlooked. The success of the agency’s strategic plan and the success of the agency itself are dependent on your ability to develop and implement a strategic communication plan that attends to every stakeholder on your map. Anything less potentially jeopardizes your agency and threatens protection, permanence, well-being, and the long-term success of your children.