An aside about the personal agendas which are secretly shaping things

As a business analyst, we want to understand what makes someone take a position.

In particular, we want to understand a specific type of stakeholder: the opponent. Since we know opponents often try to derail things for reasons outside of the project, why are they intent on impeding progress? And under what circumstances?

On one project, it was found that many people were apathetic to the change, despite being affected by it, and despite the external political pressure being so imperative. And on a similar project, the old ways of working crept back in, with people carrying on like before, even though the commercial logic was so overwhelming that it was a no-brainer.

But logic isn’t the issue here; it can’t be. What’s happening is that these stakeholders are seeking comfort from their position as opponents and they’re searching for a feeling, not a rational path. Some people thrive on the promise of change, but for others, even if they can see the need for change, it can be unsettling.

This is something we must appreciate and be honest about. In some situations, the change may lead to redundancies or shifts in people’s jobs, in which case the stakeholder’s apprehension is very real. At other times, stakeholders may be cynical about whether this project will be any different to others that promised much, but never delivered. In either case, the change must be sold carefully and thoughtfully, marshalling counter-forces to overcome the negative stance.

By connecting with the status quo, the opponent engages with their desired emotion, a feeling of comfort, safety in familiarity, no fear.

These stakeholders don’t think of themselves as obstacles. Each stakeholder doesn’t want to take a unique position, all alone with a feeling. Instead, they seek to be part of a widespread group, a powerless group that can take solace in each other while the project “keeps them informed”. They can find this belonging everytime they hang out with the opposing forces.

That’s not a big leap from the countless stakeholder groups that so many early champions belong to.

At some point in time, each of us becomes (for a while) the type of person who believes that our underlying personal agendas are right. We’re seeking own own little pocket of comfort.