P2 tip #3: Set agendas aside

1 06 2011

Complex and controversial projects are ones that are surrounded with many different voices and opinions; there are many factors to account for and countless options to consider. For this reason, it is important to set agendas aside. The guiding principle for projects I have seen come to successful completion is, “Do what’s best for the project.”

Doing what’s best for the project means taking a hard look at the technical data to see the story it tells. It means letting go of personal inklings or biases to really pay attention to the direction the data points toward. Once the team identifies the trade-offs between various options, it is time to present the options and get feedback on what trade-offs are most acceptable to the community.

An awareness of agendas at all levels (political to grassroots) is needed to effectively communicate with stakeholders and address a range of issues. However, because agendas will never square up and spending government funds on one group’s solution over another solution because of power and influence is unfair, the project team must examine the data in a clear and transparent way. The project purpose, methodology and results should form the basis of decisions.

This does not mean working in a vacuum or being free from political influence … there is a time and place to understand and analyze political will. But the data (and how the data was derived) must stand up to public scrutiny. For as dry as technical work can be to describe, there must be a logical and compelling story within the technical analysis.  And when the project team reaches an impasse where we don’t know what values and impacts to choose over others, it’s time to seek stakeholder input grounded in the presentation of well-researched facts.

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