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ET-011: Stakeholder Analysis and your Strategic People Plan

With Andrew Bartlow

ET-011: Stakeholder Analysis and your Strategic People Plan

and your host Wayne Brown on September 6, 2022

Episode Notes: A conversation with Andrew Bartlow

In preparation for this conversation with our guest Andrew Bartlow, I had the good fortune to read his book ‘Scaling For Success’ and to work through one of the multiple guides – ‘Strategic People Planning,’ which are offered as support for their premier development program for top HR leaders – People Leader Accelerator.”

If this guide is an indication of the quality of content, then this is a program that should be on every HR executive’s to-do list. And from the program’s home page.

“Many HR leaders have little formal training for the role. The programs that do exist (i.e. SHRM, HRCI, and university extensions) are not effective at preparing the next generation of HR professionals. We are filling the gap.

We offer three levels of support: self-paced Guides, tightly focused topical Sprints, and our flagship Accelerator Program – a 16-week executive MBA-like experience.”

Here’s a statement about the People Leader Accelerator program…

“The People Leader Accelerator is a professional development program designed to help People Ops, Talent Management, and HR professionals at rapidly growing companies propel their organizations and their careers forward.”


In today’s episode, we are going deep. Deep inside the HR world and to businesses that are growing at pace and scale. From start-up to large corporations, our guest has considerable experience in this space and offers plenty for all leaders to be thinking about. Our guest is Mr. Andrew Bartlow.

Andrew has 25 years of Human Resources and Talent Management experience at organizations across a wide spectrum of sizes, maturity stages, and industries.

He is the co-author of “Scaling for Success: People Priorities for High Growth Organizations,” has a master’s degree from the top program in his field, and has been CECP, SPHR, Six Sigma, and executive coaching certified.

Andrew leads Series B Consulting, which helps businesses to articulate their people strategy and accelerate their growth while navigating rapid change. He also founded the People Leader Accelerator, which is the preeminent development program for startup HR leaders.

♦ Andrew Bartlow | LinkedIn
♦ People Leader Accelerator
♦ Series B Consulting

Andrew Bartlow’s book – Scaling For Success:

This book is a blueprint for leaders of start-ups through to large corporations. If you are wanting guidance on structure and strategy you will find it here in this clear and concise step-by-step release.

The following links take you to the Amazon book site where you can read the intros.

Scaling For Success (Amazon)
Scaling for Success (Books webpage)

What You’ll Learn
If you need more convincing then take the opportunity to visit the Goodreads site to see some testimonials that have been left about the book. Scaling for Success: People Priorities for High-Growth Organizations (Goodreads)

Final words of wisdom from Andrew:

“Around our discussion related to strategic planning, I just encourage your listeners to keep it simple, have a plan, realize that whether you’re at a company large or small, any type of organization, it’ll evolve and so you want to keep it organic, but keep your team aligned by having a plan.
A famous saying is and don’t attribute it to me, but failing to plan is planning to fail, so be really clear about what your most important goals and priorities are, and ensure that your team is aware of that.
And that’ll take you far, whether you’re a functional leader or a general business leader.”


0:00:04.6 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m Wayne Brown and welcome to the ET project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as team ET. In today’s episode, we’re going deep, deep inside the HR world and to businesses that are growing at pace and scale. From startup to large corporations, our guest has considerable experience in this space and offers plenty for all leaders to be thinking about.

0:00:39.0 WB: Our guest is Mr. Andrew Bartlow. Andrew has 25 years of human resources and talent management experience at organizations across a wide spectrum of sizes, maturity stages, and industries. He is the co-author of Scaling For Business, People, Priorities for High-Growth Organizations. He has a master’s degree from a top program in his field and has been CECP, SPHR, Six Sigma and Executive Coaching Certified. Andrew leads Series B consulting, which helps businesses to articulate their people strategy and accelerate their growth while navigating rapid change. He also founded the People Leader Accelerator, which is a preeminent development program for startup HR leaders. So with that, and in preparation for our 30 minute episode, please remove any distractions, make yourself comfortable and be ready to capture the wealth of insights as you listen to Andrew Bartlow and I discuss the topic of stakeholder analysis in your strategic people plan.


0:01:51.0 Andrew Bartlow: Welcome to the ET project, a podcast for those executive talents, determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor Wayne Brown as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:02:08.7 WB: Alright, well, team ET welcome to today’s episode. And with me today, I have a very important, very special guest. Andrew Bartlow. Andrew is one of the gurus of the HR field. He’s been around a long time, has a great book called Scaling For Success. We’ll touch on that briefly but we’ll dive deeper into some really important advice that Andrew and his group offer to executives as well as HR leaders. So welcome Andrew.

0:02:42.2 Speaker 3: Really great to be here with you, Wayne. Thanks a lot.

0:02:45.5 WB: I normally like to kick off with seeing whether you have any fun facts that you would like to share with the team.

0:02:51.9 Speaker 3: Oh my goodness. I don’t know about a fun fact. It’s 85 degrees Fahrenheit here in the San Francisco Bay Area in late August. And my little one turned seven over the weekend and school is back in session. Thank goodness.

0:03:12.9 WB: Wow. Excellent. And I guess that’s a nice lead into the next question, which is anything exciting you in the world or around your own life at the moment? School may be one of those, right?

0:03:26.5 S3: Yeah, yeah. School, no masks in the school for the little ones. I have a first grader and third grader, so that’s a big change. The world is different this year versus last year. Sure. More of a normalization, maybe it’s a new normal we’ll see, in some ways. Yeah, that’s big.

0:03:50.3 WB: Excellent. Excellent. And I mentioned that you have a great career 25 years in business, etcetera. Our audience, our team ET consists primarily of executive talents. And is there anything in your career that stands out that you think would be a relevant insight for them as you reflect back over that period? Is there any milestones or anything advice wise that you could offer?

0:04:22.3 S3: Yeah. I’ll try to make this bite-sized, but it’s one of the best pieces of career advice I ever received. And I actually gave the commencement speech at graduation at my grad program and focused on this. The general idea is a career is a marathon. It’s a really long stretch of time and if you build a strong foundation, then that sets you up for success along the way. So don’t get distracted by short term titles or rates of pay. But if you build that foundation of super high quality experience, working with people that are the best in the world at what they do, then as you get deeper into your career, you’ll get paid for it. You’ll get recognized for it, and you’ll have more choices later on. So it’s really a story of delayed gratification.

0:05:19.6 WB: Very nice. So I like the fact that it’s definitely not a sprint. That’s quite often a challenge for us in today’s world with all this uncertainty and particularly for the younger generation, I guess, to come to terms with that. So thank you. Let’s jump into the book itself, just briefly Scaling For Success. I read through, cover to cover.

0:05:46.0 S3: Wow. Wow.


0:05:48.6 S3: You should get an award for that.


0:05:51.1 WB: I have to say it’s a very detailed blueprint about the necessary considerations in building as they’re scaling their business, how they can in parallel, build their HR operation to support that scale. Would that be a fair assessment?

0:06:11.4 S3: I might position it a little differently and that is… My view, my take of human resources is that it is the organization, it is your management practices and your management processes. So HR isn’t just payroll and benefits and dealing with complaints. It’s the choices that you make around how you operate and how you communicate and how those things are linked together really matters. We can go as deep into this as you like, but, overall don’t complicate it and be brilliant at a few of the basics.

0:06:54.5 WB: Right. I’ve heard quotes, and I think you have a quote somewhere that HR is not at the table. HR is the table. And so I understand where you’re coming from. What was the key driver for you and your colleague in putting the book together?

0:07:10.7 S3: Sure. Well yeah really pleased with [chuckle] with it finally being in print, it was a labor of love and tears along the way.

0:07:21.1 WB: Right.

0:07:21.8 S3: I was at a turning point in my career where after roughly 25 years of in-house experience, working in human resources roles at some of the world’s largest organizations like general electric and Pepsi and Wells Fargo, and a bunch of other places many of your listeners have heard of. A handful of startups. I’ve been the head of HR at a number of places and had a fantastic ride as a company went public and grew incredibly rapidly. And I rode that rocket ship and eventually pulled my golden parachute and semiretired in my early forties, which was a crazy mind blowing experience.

0:08:11.6 S3: And frankly it didn’t stick. I was a pretty terrible stay-at-home dad for about a year and… It was less than that, frankly. And I was trying to figure out what can I do to be useful? What can I do now that I have more choices with how to spend my time and I don’t have to be working 80 hours a week and traveling multiple time zones away every week and I thought, “Well, hey, let me do something that I know.” And that is, I’ve spent 25 years in this human resources field and frankly, I’ve been embarrassed a lot of times. I’ve been uncomfortable telling people that I work in HR because all of these preconceived notions come with what HR is like, “Oh, people love you.

0:09:07.2 S3: You must be so warm and, you throw all the parties.” or, “Oh, people must not wanna be around you ’cause you’re dealing with complaints all the time and you have to fire people.” And I really wanted to try to help elevate the profession. I wanted to try to help other HR people who often fall into the work without really a lot of preparation and training. I had the benefit of working at some of the best places in the world that do this. And so the book was… It was really twofold to get to the point. The book was me trying to get some self-actualization being useful in the world again. And two, me trying to give back to the people in this profession to help them be better, be more successful and do it at a higher level.

0:09:58.9 WB: Nice. And I think you’ve probably achieved that with, definitely with the insights in the book itself. As I say, it was an interesting read. It’s very detailed book. So if anyone who’s looking for any guidance, this would be the blueprint book that I would turn to for sure. So leading of that and I guess you’ve partially answered the question, but in our world today, it’s so dynamic, it’s so uncertain. It’s somewhat in flux, constant flux. Is there anything specific that you would advise our audience Executive Talents to be mindful of as they start scaling their business?

0:10:42.7 S3: We’re, we meaning the world of work. The world of executives are still figuring out what the post COVID world of work looks like. Now that it’s been proven that many jobs can be done just fine remotely, there continues to be this push pull about back to the office or continued remote. And I think that remote and distributed work issue will continue to play out over the next few years. And I think we’ll see some winners and losers. I think we’re gonna see a really strong trend towards continued distributed work.

0:11:34.4 WB: Right.

0:11:34.5 S3: People working from anywhere. Seeing this enormous rise in HR tech, HR service providers that are helping organizations employ people in all different places around the world. Making it easier to employ somebody as an employee or a contractor that might work in Poland or the UK or in the Philippines.

0:12:04.5 WB: Yes.

0:12:04.5 S3: I think that’s gonna be more common.

0:12:08.0 WB: And looking at the whole hybrid environment, I think it has just, as you say, from a talent perspective, it changes the playing field and you now don’t have to be local you have the opportunity to be pretty much anywhere in the world. Maybe that’s a stretch just at the moment, but…

0:12:29.4 S3: Yeah. And that changes everything that changes communications, that changes your management practices and processes, that impacts compensation, how do you train and onboard people when they’re many time zones away? Changes everything. And so, getting our arms wrapped around that, I think it’ll take a little while to sort itself out, but those companies that get there faster and take advantage of some of the big opportunities and there are real opportunities in terms of a bigger pool of talent and potentially at a lower cost. The competition factor, it really changes when you’re, when you’re fishing in a bigger pond.

0:13:18.9 WB: Have you sensed that this is a global phenomenon? I know it’s very prominent in America, but Europe, are you aware of anything similar happening across the globe?

0:13:32.0 S3: Oh, I sure am. I have a number of clients that are based in the UK and in Europe and I personally do work with a software development team that was based in the Ukraine, now most of them are in Italy or Poland.

0:13:45.4 WB: Right.

0:13:46.7 S3: But yeah, I have, I dont know 40 active clients at the moment. And all but a handful of them have global employment and these are not giant companies. These are companies that are call it a 100 to 1500 people.

0:14:05.0 WB: Right. So it’s definitely something that’s starting to embed itself, I guess, in our world. Great. So let’s look at a program that you’ve put together called the People Leader Accelerator. And in that, within the program you have a series of guides and you’re kind enough to share one of those with me, Strategic People Planning Guide. I found it hugely beneficial in terms of the approach. So it’s really the what and the how to, for setting up and looking at HR from a strategic perspective. So I’d like to spend a bit of time and go through that because I think there’s some real insight there for our listeners as well. So if you don’t mind, perhaps you could just give any outline around the strategic planning or people planning guide itself, and then we’ll get into the body of it.

0:15:07.9 S3: Sure, sure. That really really appreciate the tee up on this. And hey maybe just at a couple of words about people leader accelerator to give context. That’s a professional development program or suite of programs that myself and a couple of other partners target at the human resources professionals. So we have a 16 week accelerator program that heads of the function at high growth, mostly venture back tech companies go through. Actually just had a session today with my cohort on this very topic on strategic people planning. And in addition to that accelerator, we offer these downloadable guides so that, hey, anybody can access it. Alright, so the issue is, and this ties back to why I wrote the book, like, “How do you elevate the profession of HR? How do you help HR people be more successful, less likely to burn out?” And you know what? It’s not just an HR issue. I was talking with a friend that’s head of sales and we were using the same words and the same concepts to describe the same issue.

0:16:35.1 S3: And that is a lot of functional leaders get stuck naval gazing, get stuck, focusing on their own function, focusing on their own priorities and activities without really baking it into the larger context of what’s most important to my organization right now. And so HR folks are notoriously guilty of being employee advocates. Is that a bad thing? No. Is that a bad thing, if it’s not taken in the bigger context of, “Well, what are you trying to accomplish? And how far do you go and do you just pay everybody more and have more parties and more benefits? Where does it end?” But the goal is to help your company be successful. And so this guide is intended to help those HR people understand better, who are your stakeholders, who are you trying to serve, and how do you identify those superordinate goals so that you don’t end up trying to do everything and failing to do the more complicated, less urgent, more impactful things.

0:17:57.7 WB: And you mentioned the stakeholders and I see you include a grid, the power interest grid. I’ve used it throughout my career as well, very powerful. What is for you when you are analyzing the stakeholders and you are identifying, analyzing what are other things that you look for in that process?

0:18:20.9 S3: Yeah. Well, the reason that you do a stakeholder analysis at all is just to understand the field of play, like who cares about what this topic is. And your stake holder analysis may vary from topic to topic, or even from month to month depending what you’re working on. So you would want to have this power interest perspective if different stakeholders have different degrees of influence and different degrees of interest on what you’re working on. And so that way you find that you’re able to more effectively allocate your time, attention, and resource to the stakeholders that have a bigger impact on the outcome or the design of whatever that topic is.

0:19:20.0 WB: Right.

0:19:21.0 S3: So if somebody has very little power on that topic and maybe they’re highly interested in it, but they can’t actually move the needle, you might manage them differently than your CEO, who also happens to be very, very interested in this. You might wanna partner closely with that person with high power and high interest. So again, you just… You can’t do everything, so you try to figure out how to allocate your time.

0:19:51.5 WB: Yeah, it’s almost the 80/20 principal here. When you’re looking at your stakeholders and how you’re going to communicate with them? What’s the degree of risk that they might be applied? It simplifies the playing field, and so I like that grid very much. But from the analysis of the stakeholders, you then move into your needs or identification and prioritization, which I guess is core for the HR team to really be identifying and working on. And you have, again, a couple of very useful tools, the traditional SWOT analysis, which I’m sure most listeners are familiar with. What I did like about your guide, is you provide some questions to help people go down the right path with the SWOT analysis. I’ve sat in many meetings and workshops where people get so lost in the process, so I think the guide guides them per se, to head down the right path. But there’s a second tool that I’d like to go a little bit more into, which is the development assessment template, the HR development assessment template. So, would you be able to give some detail around that please?

0:21:07.3 S3: Sure, sure. Yeah, this is actually… It’s an adaptation from Dave Ulrich, father of modern HR. He is co-founder of the RBL Group and he and his team developed this. I think it’s eight or nine different dimensions where you can assess the maturity, or effectiveness of your HR department. And it’s again, another sort of prioritization tool. So if you can think of this grid with the nine different dimensions, or eight, going north to south, and then left to right, or east to west, you have these descriptors of what those dimensions look like. So maybe you have talent acquisition, and it’s in its infancy, and you’re just opening, you don’t even have reps, you’re just hiring people when you figure you need to hire people, and that, maybe that’s the most immature.

0:22:10.7 S3: And then on the far right, you have a requisition approval process, and structured interviews, and so on and so on. That can help you, whether you’re in HR, or another department, the general concept applies. It can help you identify your soft spots, or your peaks and valleys in your organization. And it’s one indicator of where you could spend more or more valuable time. So I would encourage people that lead a function or lead a department to have some sense of what the high spots and low spots are in terms of how your department functions. And if you can use some sort of benchmark or some sort of a rubric that an expert has already created for you that you can then bounce your assessment up against, that can give you a place of where to start.

0:23:07.7 WB: Exactly.

0:23:08.5 S3: And that’s really helpful.

0:23:10.8 WB: Yeah. So the prioritization, not only the identification, but prioritizing that awareness is very powerful, right? So, yeah. Great tool. And then of course, once you have all that in place, you then introduce the strategic planning portion. For the sake of time, we won’t go into that, because it is quite detailed, however so, it’s a great tool as well. But I wanted to spend a little bit of time now talking about what I feel personally to be one of the areas that’s often overlooked, and that’s the area around the topic of influence. And I think for me and my… So I’m 45 years, I’m coming to the end of my career. I see this as one of the greatest challenges for the HR fraternity as a whole, is to achieve this degree of influence that they need to be able to then do the work that they have to do effectively. And I’m really happy to see that you’ve put this into your strategic planning guide. I think this is core. So I’m wondering, could you share a little bit about the approach that, if I was a HR leader, how would I approach gaining influence?

0:24:27.3 S3: Sure. Sure. Well, yeah, influence is included in this strategic planning guide and that it’s not just about the what, but it’s about the how. So that the whats will never get done unless you’re able to bring people along with you, and get the resources dedicated, and get the buy-in from other parts of the organization. HR has a lot of internal connections where many HR leaders end up leaning on just a few potential sources of influence, maybe overweighting being liked or positional authority. I need a such and such titles so people will do what I tell them to. And what many HR leaders fail to leverage often, are other sources of influence, or more actively trying to gather support from within the organization to get something done that might be complicated, or controversial.

0:25:33.8 S3: Or tying activities… And boy I key in on this closely, tying our activities that need resources or attention to the most important goals of the business, so if it’s really clear that what you’re working on directly impacts the bottom line, it’s more likely it’s gonna get support and have fewer bumps in the road along the way. So being thoughtful… And I don’t think your listeners wanna hear all the details about all the potential sources of influence and I’ll get full credit to my partner, Dr. Brad Harris. He’s a professor at HEC Paris, one of the top management schools in Europe and the work of Jeff Pfeffer who wrote the seminal book, Power. So influence is about how to get things done. And I’m really hoping that if you start with focusing on the right things that will also naturally make it easier to get those things done, because those right things, if you can make it really clear that they are the right things, then people in an organization that share common goals will be more likely to get behind it.

0:26:50.3 WB: Right, very true. You know I had an old mentor that used to say, you can have the best strategy in the world, but if you can’t implement it, it means nothing and influence sort of falls into that category, for me, if you do all the work, in as you say, if you focus on the right things in the beginning, you do the right work then you need to be able to bring people along with you on that journey and to be able to learn how to influence. So I really feel for everybody listed not just the HR team for leaders as a whole influence is so critical and more challenging today with the hybrid environment, so very, very important. Alright, so I’m conscious of the time here, Andrews anything that you are working on at the moment that you feel able to share with the team?

0:27:47.7 S3: Oh, wow. Well, really pleased to be appearing on your podcast. I’m actively trying to share more content with the world and allowing me to leverage your audience and meet some new people and reach some new ears is something I’m actively trying to do. I have a playlist on Spotify of my now many podcast appearances, so I’d invite your listeners to check that out. And the other way I’m trying to scale, I’m trying to help more people, ’cause there aren’t enough people like you that’ll read a book from cover to cover and absorb it all. I’m trying to provide more bite-sized blocks of knowledge. And so that that’s where this strategic people planning guide, that’s a gap that was intended to fill. And my team and I have created four other guides.

0:28:47.7 S3: We have one on compensation benchmarking and leveling that complicated fraught area right now. Organizational culture design, that’s important today as well. People analytics and just yesterday we posted new hire onboarding.

0:29:13.0 WB: Okay.

0:29:15.9 S3: So these are really detailed. I mean, you’ve gone through the content, really detailed step by step explains everything that you would need to know as a business leader, not just an HR practitioner, but as a business leader, you know what you would need to know on this topic, you know save yourself a university education and get a guide and figure out how to implement something for your organization.

0:29:40.2 WB: Very true and I don’t want to be demeaning to universities. I think they serve a great purpose, but in today’s world, can you afford to spend three to four years locked into a program with the world changing so rapidly around you? Maybe the shorter programs like you’re offering are more valuable is my perspective on it as well. So where would people go to find you, find your People Leader Accelerator program, find your book, where would people head?

0:30:15.0 S3: Yeah. Well, LinkedIn is really a great central hub for me. Please follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn, Andrew Bartlow and from there you can see some of the many things that I’m involved in. People Leader Accelerator has its own website. Scaling for success has its own website. My Single Shingle Consultancy Series B Consultancy or Series B Consulting has its own website. And there are a number of other things that I’m involved in, but just, hopefully I’m a worthwhile follow, I promise not to spam you on LinkedIn.

0:30:53.3 WB: Very good, very good. Shingle… Sorry, what was the first company that you said? I haven’t read about that one.

0:31:00.9 S3: Oh, Series B Consulting.

0:31:02.5 WB: The Series B Consulting, yes…

0:31:03.6 S3: Yeah, that’s my umbrella for all of this various work that I did.

0:31:09.2 WB: Very good, excellent. Any final words of wisdom or takeaways that you’d like to leave with the group?

0:31:16.1 S3: Boy, around our discussion related to strategic planning, I just encourage your listeners to keep it simple, have a plan, realize that whether you’re at a company large or small, any type of organization, it’ll evolve and so you want to keep it organic, but keep your team aligned by having a plan. A famous saying don’t attribute it to me, but failing to plan is planning to fail, so be really clear about what your most important goals and priorities are, and ensure that your team is aware of that. And that’ll take you far, whether you’re a functional leader or a general business leader.

0:32:07.8 WB: Very insightful. So Andrew Bartlow, thank you for spending the time to have a conversation with the ET project and the team. Greatly appreciate it. Hopefully we keep in contact and certainly, I’ve already hit that follow button, so [chuckle] I’ll be watching the progress as the years go on, so I thank you.

0:32:30.8 S3: I appreciate it, Wayne, thanks a lot.

0:32:32.7 WB: Excellent.

0:32:35.1 AB: Thank you for joining us on the ET project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, eBooks, webinars, and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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