Tailoring ITK Tools: Stakeholder Map & Matrix

Tailoring ITK Tools: Stakeholder Map & Matrix


Q: Team Toolkit, you always encourage me to tailor the ITK tools for my needs. I’m in! But HOW exactly, do I do that??

A: Great question, anonymous audience member!

While “tailoring” inherently implies that every case is unique, here’s an example approach showing how the Stakeholder Map & Matrix was tailored.

A MITRE colleague approached Team Toolkit looking for tips & guidance for co-facilitating a kick-off meeting with senior stakeholders across the government. This group was responsible for rewriting a major policy, which included a “Responsibilities” section that identifies key players and their main responsibilities. Our colleague had only 30 minutes for this Responsibilities discussion, and she was hoping there would be an ITK tool that could help streamline the input-gathering and quickly build consensus.

Our go-to tools for discussing key stakeholders are the Community Map and Stakeholder Map & Matrix tools. However, these tools didn’t quite fit the need due to the nature of the policy rewrite task:

  • The Community Map identified key players, but it was too broad because it also identified Allies and Influencers. While important, those groups would not have a direct responsibility and thus, would not be included in the policy. Since time was short, discussing key players that wouldn’t be mentioned in the policy was deemed unnecessary, and the Community Map was nixed.
  • The Stakeholder Map & Matrix was helpful in narrowing the scope to focus only on those key players, and it began collecting needed information about their responsibilities via the Impact, Influence, Importance, and Contribution fields. The Stakeholder Map & Matrix was also helpful for asking the audience to plan ahead for how they can successfully engage with this key player.
  • However, the task at hand required more: In this policy rewrite, it was known that some key players would have shared responsibilities, which also requires a discussion of supporting responsibilities.This required parsing the responsibility further into primary and supporting responsibilities. Similarly, the engagement approach would have to be adapted to include not just key players, but also the supporting players, some of which may be internal to their organization. The Stakeholder Map & Matrix was a good base, but it needed tailoring.

Through a series of quick-turn iterations, Team Toolkit worked together with our colleague to create a custom Stakeholder Map and Matrix.

In the end, the final tailored tool was split into the two most important areas where the MITRE team needed input and follow-up action: Responsibilities and Internal Engagement. Some fields were modified or eliminated altogether, and new fields were introduced. The use of color informed the audience which sub-categories existed, and the use of white space indicated which areas required more input (more white space = more input needed). The sub-fields included specific terms (blacked-out in the picture for sensitivity), and we intentionally used key phrases that were recognizable and understood by the audience. 

Since this was a kick-off meeting for a collaborative effort, we also modified the language to be more optimistic and cooperative. For example, the titles were changed: “Block” was rephrased as “Potential Challenge”. The prompt question “How could the stakeholder block the project?” was rephrased as “Who must agree with these proposed Responsibilities? What would prevent buy-in?”

Our colleague informed us that the kick-off meeting went very well, and the tailored Stakeholder Map & Matrix was helpful to get the inputs the MITRE team needed and to streamline the Responsibilities discussion. Check out the final tailored tool below!

To summarize our approach, here are our tips for how you can tailor ITK tools:

  1. Get clear on what is really needed from the ITK tool, and focus on those fields
  2. Don’t be afraid to modify, eliminate, or introduce new fields!
  3. Strategically use color & white space to non-verbally guide your user
  4. Use specific language or terms that your audience will recognize
  5. Modify word choice depending on what attitudes you would like to invoke in your audience
  6. Try the tailored tool for yourself or with 1-2 colleagues, and keep iterating until it is simple enough to use without instructions


Innovation Resiliency: It’s possible and has been demonstrated!

Innovation Resiliency: It’s possible and has been demonstrated!

What happens when you combine numerous cancelled conferences, a requirement for social distancing, and a desire for innovation…?!


As organizers of major conferences began cancelling events in March due to the growing spread of COVID-19, the opportunities to meet new people and exchange new ideas was looking increasingly slim. Serendipity and creative collisions are crucial for innovation, so the lack of in-person opportunities was especially disappointing for our innovation community.


What started off as a question (“Is anyone interested in doing something online?”) evolved into a challenge statement (“How might we meet new people and exchange ideas in a time of social distancing?”) and grew into a rapid, 2-week experiment to lightly curate a virtual collaboration event across the Innovation Ecosystem: Innovation Resiliency 2020.


We were blown away by the response, and we were thrilled to feature 30 presentations on 13 different content-sharing platforms for topics spanning defense, healthcare, gaming, and more. Our Innovators came from government and industry, bringing a diversity of thinking (and format!) that was refreshing and informative as we collectively find our way using new tools and methods in this time of virtual collaboration.


Not only that, what was also inspiring was the cooperative spirit and willingness to experiment. We were so impressed by each of our presenters, who were all willing to quickly develop a virtual talk with less than two week’s notice. Not only that, partner organizations were willing to co-sponsor and/or help promote each other’s virtual events in order to help connect our communities (shout out to Defense Innovation Network, NatSecGirlSquad, and Public Spend Forum!).


So thank you, Innovators, for proving our hypothesis that our community IS resilient and that it IS possible to meet new people and exchange new ideas in this time of social distancing. We are so stoked to be in this together with you!


ICYMI, check out the recordings and sign up for next time here!


Team Toolkit talks:



Hosting a Virtual Challenge Statement Workshop

Hosting a Virtual Challenge Statement Workshop

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the nature of the way we work, including how we host workshops and collaborate with each other. In the midst of a pandemic, the Innovation Toolkit partnered with Bridging Innovation to work virtually with sponsors to craft challenge statements for submission to the Small Business Innovation Research (SIBR) process. The workshop trained participants on a tool chain that translated specific gaps into broader challenge statements for startups to propose business ideas to solve said challenges. At the end of the workshop series, the participants left with the beginnings of a publicly-releasable challenge statement to share with nontraditional solution providers through initiatives like the AFWERX/Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) SBIR Program. Like other Bridging Innovation initiatives, SIBR programs build pathways to discover, accelerate, and deliver innovation from non-traditional sources to solve national problems.

Challenge Statements are designed to capture the problem space while not outlining an expected or explicit solution, so that companies understand why the problem exists and why it is important to solve. Here are some tips for writing a good challenge statement:

  • Write in plain English with few acronyms
  • Choose a challenge that is real, has impact, and does not have an adequate solution
  • Explain who the stakeholders are and why this challenge is important
  • Outline the company incentive and how it’s worthwhile for them

What was meant to be a half-day, in-person workshop morphed into a week-long workshop series, 0900-1000 EST daily, introducing the next part of the tool chain. Day 1 introduced the purpose of the workshop and the first two tools – Lotus Blossom and Storm Draining – to get the teams brainstorming about their challenge areas (divergent thinking) and down-selecting to one idea (convergent thinking). Day 2, the group reviewed how the exercises went and moved on to Problem Framing to more specifically define the problem. Day 3 was a review of the refined problem statements before moving onto the TRIZ Prism to generalize the problem. On the final day, the participants shared their challenge statements.

As a follow-on to the workshop, the Bridging and ITK teams are planning to set up officer hours to provide feedback on participants’ challenge statements as the week did not provide enough time to share the statements with sponsors and iterate based on feedback.

Given the evolving COVID-19 circumstances, this workshop was ITK’s first ever fully virtual workshop with participants joining via Skype for Business from their homes. The presenters shared their webcams, which helped build some familiarity, but others had technical difficulties or wanted to save bandwidth. We made good use of the chat window, asking participants to provide a “thumbs up” if the content resonated. Since the ITK tools have yet to be digitized (spoiler: it’s in the works), we provided participants with editable PowerPoint versions as a makeshift way to replace our in-person 11×17 printouts and post-its.

Some ideas for future sessions:

  • Ask participants to share their faces on webcam if possible
  • Give participants more lead time to clear schedules for both the training sessions as well as break out team sessions
  • Move to an every-other-day model
  • Schedule break out sessions with teams and assign facilitators to them
  • Assign team captains to share team’s work for accountability
  • Identify specific participants and roles so facilitators can call people out by name

If you are interested in hosting a challenge statement workshop for your team, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful in your upcoming virtual workshops.